For the first weekend of October, robot boxing movie Real Steel squares off against political campaign thriller The Ides of March in what appears to be a lopsided fight. Real Steel enters the ring on around 4,700 screens at 3,440 locations (including 270 IMAX screens), which is the eighth-widest opening ever for an October release. The Ides of March targets a much lighter debut on 2,700 screens at 2,199 theaters. With the holdovers all set to drop to single-digits, Real Steel will almost certainly take first place, marking only the second time in the last eight weeks that a brand-new movie (not The Lion King re-release or a holdover) has claimed the top spot.
Starring Hugh Jackman and set in the futuristic world of robot boxing, Real Steel has in some circles been dubbed the "'Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots' movie." It's unclear if that's an affectionately nostalgic designation or if it's something a bit meaner, but it at least shows the movie's central concept is fairly easy to understand. Beyond that, things get a bit more confusing. Why has robot boxing taken the place of human boxing? Are the robots controlled by computer or by shadowboxing? What role does Jackman play in these fights? The trailers did a decent job clarifying some of these points, but commercials only seem to have enough time to position the movie as a sports drama with robots. Still, these more nitpicky issues aren't going to matter much to the core audience of younger males who have driven past robot movies like the Transformers series to substantial grosses. Barring a catastrophic start, Real Steel will take first place, though it's hard to see it reaching the family audience that it will need to truly break out.
Adapted from the play Farragut North, The Ides of March marks George Clooney's fourth outing behind the camera. It's also the third Ryan Gosling movie in as many months following Crazy, Stupid, Love. ($82.9 million) and Drive ($28 million). Given the relentless primary coverage right now, The Ides of March could benefit a bit from its topicality, though that should be off-set by the fact that it won't provide the escape that going to the movies is supposed to deliver. Also, while reviews are solid, they aren't spectacular enough to get discerning adult audiences out to theaters in a noticeable way. Clooney's recent Fall thrillers The American and Michael Clayton debuted to $13.2 million and $10.4 million, respectively, while Gosling's Drive opened to $11.3 million last month. An opening in that general range seems within reach, though it won't go much higher.
In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" polling, 30 percent of voters are opting to see Real Steel on opening weekend. That's a bit up from last October's Red (28.6 percent) but obviously way off from the Transformers and X-Men movies. The Ides of March tallied a solid 17 percent opening weekend score, which is behind March's The Adjustment Bureau (23.5 percent) but ahead of Clooney's Michael Clayton (15.7 percent) and The American (13.4 percent).
Bar for Success With a barrage of robot-focused marketing, Real Steel needs at least $25 million to get a pass. Considering the openings of past Clooney movies, The Ides of March can settle for a low-teen-millions debut. Discuss the Weekend Forecast on Facebook, Twitter, and in Box Office Mojo's forums.