Forecast: 'Gatsby' Poised for 'Great' Second Place Opening
Saturday AM Update: The Great Gatsby opened to an excellent $19.4 million on Friday, which puts the movie on pace for at least $50 million for the weekend. Iron Man 3 still took first place, though, with $19.8 million, which is off a rough 71 percent from last Friday. In comparison, The Avengers only fell 64 percent at the same point. Finally, Tyler Perry Presents Peeples bombed with $1.19 million, and is on pace for just over $3 million for the weekend.

Friday AM Update: The Great Gatsby earned a very strong estimated $3.25 million from late Thursday shows last night. That's significantly higher than Dark Shadows's $550,000 midnight debut last year, and up a bit on Sex and the City 2 ($3 million) in 2010. That's skewed, of course, by the fact that Gatsby played at 10 p.m. whereas Shadows and Sex played at midnight. Still, an opening weekend north of $40 million now appears to be a guarantee.

Forecast: While Iron Man 3 will remain in first place at the box office, The Great Gatsby will be a big draw among women and should score a strong opening over Mother's Day weekend. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry-produced romantic comedy Peeples seems poised for one of the lower debuts for a movie from the prolific filmmaker.

Iron Man 3 opened to $174.1 million last weekend, which was the second-highest debut ever behind last May's The Avengers ($207.4 million). If Iron Man 3 has a similar second weekend drop it would add $87 million, though word-of-mouth isn't quite as strong. Still, it should hold better than the poorly-received Iron Man 2, which means it will gross a minimum of $70 million.

Guaranteed to take second place this weekend, Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby has endured a tumultuous path to the big screen. After what was reported to be a very extravagant production—especially for a romantic literary adaptation—the movie was bumped out of the 2012 awards season when it was moved from December 2012 to its current May 2013 date. Recent reviews have basically confirmed the suspicion that the movie wasn't up-to-snuff for awards contention, and it's currently hovering around 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

For general audiences, though, none of these details (including the poor critical reception) are going to matter much, because Warner Bros. has shrewdly framed The Great Gatsby as Summer popcorn entertainment, not as a prestige movie. The marketing effort has highlighted the movie's colorful imagery, its modern pop soundtrack (courtesy of executive producer Jay-Z) and its star-studded cast, most notable of which has been Leonardo DiCaprio working within his wheelhouse as the enigmatic title character. One downside is that the previews have been extremely light on story, though the romantic overtones combined with general familiarity with the source material should help negate that minor obstacle.

With the exception of 2009's Star Trek reboot, the second weekend of May is historically a tough place to release a major movie. There are a few examples of moderate hits, though, that Gatsby could mirror this weekend; 2004's Troy opened to $46.9 million, while 2010's Robin Hood scored $36.1 million. Those are more action-oriented movies, though similar to Gatsby they each starred a charismatic male lead (Brad Pitt/Russell Crowe) and were new renditions of well-known stories.

All signs point to Gatsby at least matching Robin Hood—Fandango reports that the movie is accounting for a whopping 65 percent of ticket sales right now, which is impressive considering Iron Man 3's dominance—and 3D ticket prices should help the movie get to around $40 million.

Peeples is the first movie produced by, but not written or directed by, filmmaker Tyler Perry, though similar to the rest of his movies it does have his name in the official title. Ironically, it also appears to be one of his more broadly-accessible outings—it has a classic Meet the Parents-type premise, and features recognizable and likeable stars Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington. It also makes sense to release a Perry movie over Mother's Day weekend given his appeal among older women.

Still, Perry's name hasn't been pushed as hard as usual, and it feels like Peeples is going to have a tough time standing out against Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby. An opening below Perry's standard $20 million looks likely at this point.

After earning around $6 million through two weeks in moderate release, Mud is expanding nationwide to 853 locations this weekend. It should add another $2 million or so, and could be on its way to as much as $15 million by the end of its run.

Forecast (May 10-12)

1. Iron Man 3 - $71 million (-59%)

2. The Great Gatsby - $42.4 million

3. Peeples - $14.2 million

4. Pain and Gain - $4 million (-47%)

5. 42 - $3.2 million (-47%)

Bar for Success

With a huge marketing effort and a prime Summer release date, The Great Gatsby gets a pass if it earns at least $30 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Peeples is in great shape if it debuts north of $15 million.

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