"The Great Gatsby" wasn't the No. 1 film at the box office this weekend, but Warner Bros. executives may be breaking out the bubbly anyway.
Baz Luhrmann's 3-D take on of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1920s novel lost out to "Iron Man 3," the superhero behemoth that has already made nearly a billion dollars worldwide. In its second weekend of domestic release, the Marvel Studios production collected $72.5 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios.
That left "Gatsby" to settle for the runner-up position, though the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio surpassed industry expectations with a healthy debut of $51.1 million. The only other film to hit theaters this weekend, the Tyler Perry-produced comedy "Peeples," flopped with just $4.9 million.
"Iron Man 3," in which Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as billionaire playboy Tony Stark, has now raked in $949 million globally. International ticket sales account for roughly 70% of that total, as the picture has made more than double what the second "Iron Man" did overseas in 2010. The movie is doing particularly well in Korea and the United Kingdom, though it is performing best in China, where it has sold $95.3 million worth of tickets so far.
Meanwhile, because "Gatsby" has not received exceptionally positive reviews, many in town surmised moviegoers might not be interested in the adult drama — a genre typically driven by critical response. Despite the mixed notices, an older crowd turned up at the multiplex for "Gatsby" this weekend, as 69% of the audience was over the age of 25. The opening weekend crowd — only 33% of whom saw the movie in 3-D — assigned the picture an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
The film stars DiCaprio as the classic literary figure, a wealthy man who has everything he wants save for his lost love, played by Carey Mulligan. Exit polls indicated that moviegoers were attracted to the film largely because of DiCaprio but also due to the film's highly touted soundtrack featuring Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey and will.i.am.
"The audience is telling us that the No. 1 attraction is Leo — no doubt about it," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for distributor Warner Bros., which co-financed the $100-million production with Village Roadshow Pictures. "But it's not playing like a chick flick — about 41% of the audience was male. It's counterprogramming for those who want to see something that's not in the typical summer genre."
Indeed, the film is yet another box office win for 38-year-old DiCaprio, who helped turn Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" into a hit last winter. But the movie is a bigger success for filmmaker Luhrmann, who scored his biggest opening by far with "Gatsby." His last film, 2008's big-budget flop "Australia," debuted with just $14.8 million, while even the buzzed-about "Moulin Rouge" took in only $57.4 million during its entire run in the U.S. and Canada.
Next weekend, "Gatsby" will face competition from "Star Trek Into Darkness," but Warner Bros. is hopeful that the movie's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday will give it a publicity boost. The glitzy picture landed the coveted opening-night spot at the French festival, and much of the film's cast — which also includes Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher — will be on hand to walk the red carpet outside the famous Palais.
As for "Peeples," the comedy marks the lowest opening ever for a movie with Perry's name attached to it. The filmmaker only produced the movie, but "Tyler Perry presents" was included in the movie's title on its promotional materials.
The critically panned movie stars Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington as a couple whose engagement news throws off the balance of a family reunion. The film, produced by Lionsgate for about $15 million, received a B- CinemaScore from the relative few who saw it this weekend.