Striking with $128.1 million in a blazing start to the summer movie season, Iron Man 2 shot past the debut of the first Iron Man, which kicked off with $98.6 million on the same weekend in 2008. The sequel also rocketed to fifth place among the highest-grossing opening weekends of all time, slotting behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's $135.6 million launch. In terms of estimated attendance, though, Iron Man 2 would chart tenth on that list.
Iron Man 2's distributor Paramount Pictures estimated its weekend at $133.6 million on Sunday, overshooting the actual gross by $5.5 million due to bullish estimates for Friday and Sunday and an even more bullish projection for Sunday. The sequel's daily pattern ended up being similar to the original's, and it showed on close to 10,000 screens at a record 4,380 theaters. Its gross included 181 IMAX runs, which generated $9.8 million. That set the 2D IMAX opening weekend record, eclipsing Star Trek's $8.5 million from last year.
While Iron Man 2 didn't receive as much of a second movie bump as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Matrix Reloaded, The Dark Knight or even X2: X-Men United among others, it's important to note that the norm is audience erosion for pictures performing at this level, making Iron Man 2's 30 percent increase over the first movie's opening a success. Not only that, the picture already ranks as the fourth highest-grossing from 2010 in just three days of release.
Iron Man 2 capitalized on the good will produced by the first movie, which was a rare happy superhero movie and was propelled by Robert Downey, Jr. However, its marketing didn't up the ante, essentially offering more of the same and lacking a strong villain or new conflict. A "hail the conquering hero" effect was assumed, but, as pictures like Dark Knight and Dead Man's Chest have shown, the advertising still has to do more than simply announce a sequel if records are going to fall. What's more, the first Iron Man was a broadly-appealing spectacle, not just something for young fans, so the sequel likely didn't have the opening weekend urgency for an all time best.
According to distributor Paramount Pictures' exit polling, 60 percent of Iron Man 2's audience was male and 60 percent was over 25 years old, skewing more female but older than the first Iron Man's opening. These demographics also partially explain why Iron Man 2 wasn't poised to break any records out of the gate. The previous benchmarks, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3, had younger and more female pull than Iron Man. Dark Knight's opening stats were 52 percent male and 50 percent under 25, while Spider-Man 3 was 54 percent male and 63 percent under 25.
As is usually the case with summer openings, there was a huge gulf between the top movie and everything else. Iron Man 2 accounted for over 70 percent of overall business, while last weekend's top grosser, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), predictably fell into the abyss as horror movies often do. The slasher remake bled 72 percent to $9.2 million, bringing its total to $48.5 million in ten days. Its drop was steeper than Freddy Vs. Jason and Halloween (2007) (each was off 64 percent), but smaller than Friday the 13th (2009), which had an 80 percent crash.
Relinquishing its IMAX screens to Iron Man 2, How to Train Your Dragon saw its biggest decline yet, but still only dipped 37 percent. It made $6.7 million, lifting its total to $201 million in 45 days and surpassing the final gross of Monsters Vs. Aliens. Dragon also gained more ground in its bid to top Kung Fu Panda as DreamWorks Animation's highest-grossing non-Shrek movie, trailing Panda by $5.6 million through the same point.
Date Night had the smallest slip among nationwide holdovers, down 28 percent to $5.4 million and increasing its sum to $81 million in 31 days. Buoyed by Mother's Day, The Back-Up Plan eased 31 percent to $5 million, upping its total to $30.1 million in 17 days, while Furry Vengeance retreated 32 percent to $4.5 million for a $12.1 million tally in ten days.
With a sizable yet limited start at 534 locations, Babies inspired relatively few "awhs" with $2.16 million. Promoted as a Mother's Day release, though, it jumped 57 percent from Saturday to Sunday and wound up trouncing distributor Focus Features' $1.58 million estimate.
Meanwhile, Letters to Juliet had 882 sneak previews on Mother's Day and played to 75 percent capacity on average. The romance, which opens nationwide on Friday, predictably skewed female, and distributor Summit Entertainment's exit polling had 95 percent of respondents saying they'd see the movie again.