Iron Man

It is time to get very serious about the first major summer blockbuster Iron Man (Paramount), which will debut Thursday night at 8pm at multiplexes from coast-to-coast. My sources tell me that this Robert Downey, Jr. vehicle about a hard-drinking billionaire who creates a fantastic iron suit is actually “out-tracking” last summer’s Dreamworks/Paramount smash Transformers.

Not that Paramount wants this info out there. Privately, they’re saying that anything that starts with a 7 for the 3-day will make them very happy, but that’s just the standard “keep expectations low” game. Iron Man, based on early reviews and buzz, will fly considerably higher than $70M. (I attempted to get into the All Media screening Monday night at the Arclight in Hollywood, but the place was crawling with “fanboys,” and I wasn’t the only somewhat legit media guy that left without a seat.)

Transformers was stronger in Un-Aided Awareness prior to opening with 26% compared to Iron Man’s 23%, and Michael Bay’s giant robots had better Total Awareness 94%-87%, but the Marvel Studios’ new offering directed by Jon Favreau has a better Definite Interest number (51%-46%) and a better First Choice score 29%-23%. Amazingly, young males are more “amped up” for Iron Man than they were for the arrival of Optimus Prime.

Both Spider-Man 3 (Sony), on the same weekend last year, and Transformers delivered $8M or so, starting with 8pm shows on the night prior to opening. There’s no reason why Iron Man can’t match that. Friday, the official opening day, could reach $38M, Saturday could dip to $37M, and Sunday will dip a little more than 20% to $28M. That would mean $103M for the official 3-day and $111M when the Thursday night preview screenings are added in. Not bad for a non-sequel. That would make it the 8th-biggest opening ever (excluding Thursday night) and the 2nd-biggest opening ever for a non-sequel, trailing only the original Spider-Man, which delivered $114.8M.

As for Sony’s female-skewing counter-programming, the Patrick Dempsey film Made of Honor, it will be an uphill climb. One studio exec compared its tracking to Warner Bros Christmas release P.S. I Love You. It’s clearly a notch better than that with, what I’m hearing is, a stronger Total Aware (70%-67%), Definite Interest (29%-24%) and First Choice (8%-5%). The Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler chick-flick opened with a 3-day of $6.7M and grabbed a mere $14.2M in its first 7 days, which included Christmas. Dempsey’s role on Grey’s Anatomy puts him right “in the wheelhouse” for Females 25 Plus, but it’s still difficult to see how Made to Honor gets much past $15M on opening weekend, and the rom-com’s ceiling is about $18M.

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