On the Screen #1: Invincible?

I pride myself at being pretty adept at predicting box office performance. Two months ago, I predicted a great performance for Iron Man, but like almost all of the experts I underestimated the power of ol' Tin Head. I'm now predicting Iron Man will be the biggest "super hero" flick of the summer, and will gross more than Hancock and The Dark Knight (which both look great.) But is it possible Iron Man could end up being the biggest movie of the summer?

Here was my analysis two months ago when predicting how Iron Man would fair:

"Iron Man has the opportunity to start the summer off big. I imagine it will open in the 55 million territory, and with the help of good reviews, could approach 200 million domestic. Even if it's critically panned, it does $120 million easy....If Ghost Riderr could do that opening in February, Iron Man certainly will as the first big movie of the Summer. I expect the movie to do well with a top quality supporting cast (although it could use the Jessica Alba's butt factor that helped out the FF franchaise.) I think $170 range is doable for Iron Man."

What surprised me about Iron Man, and what led to it's incredible performance:
  1. Great reviews. I think the super hero genre of movies is relatively review proof...the 14 year old boys are going to come out regardless. But when these movies blow away the box office is when they are well-reviewed. Spider-Man 2 received great reviews and it smoked the competition. But who knew Iron Man's reviews would not only be positive, but it would be the best reviewed movie of the year thus far?
  2. Female appeal. Women love this movie. I thought the lack of a significant love story and the testosteroney marketing would have kept away the ladies. Not so. I've had a ton of female friends and family members tell me they loved the movie. Toss some credit to Robert Downey Jr.'s wit to attracting the ladies. And to quote my girlfriend, "The movie was good. I liked Gwyneth Paltrow's hair."
  3. The Blank Slate factor. Iron Man is not a household name and I think the movie was most viewers first exposure to the character. I think that helped. I heard someone brilliantly describe Iron Man as a "shiny new toy" or the surprise gift you didn't ask for but were surprised at how much you liked it. It was the perfect movie to kick off the summer flick season.
So, could Iron Man be box office king this Summer? Two months ago, I picked 4 movies to finish ahead of Tony Stark and company: The Dark Knight ($210 million), Wall-E ($220 million), Narnia: Prince Caspian ($240 million), and Indy 4 ($270 million.) Clearly, Iron Man is going to do better than 5th place. It's going to finish as the 4th highest grossing super hero movie of all time, behind the Spidey movies, and probably in the $275 million range. We've already seen one movie (Caspian) fall short of estimates. I will safely say that The Dark Knight will not top Iron Man, as no Batman movie has ever done more than $250 million, and this darker, grittier take, won't be the first, regardless of the Heath Ledger factor. I'm not changing my prediction on Wall-E.

So, will Indy top Iron Man? I'd say probably, but I wouldn't bet the house on it. Early chatter is that the movie is good, but not spectacular. However, it's going to have have four extremely strong weeks, before it has real competition in The Happening and The Incredible Hulk. I figure pretty much everyone is going to find their way to the theater as a break from the summer heat to see if Harrison Ford can still deliver.

The other big challenger to Iron Man is the unstoppable combination of Will Smith and the 4th of July. Two months ago, I said this about Hancock:
"Hancock, I'll put at 169 million without seeing a trailer or reading more than a one sentence description. If Will Smith can bring in 160 million playing a homeless stockbroker, imagine what he can do as a superhero. Could go as high as 200 million if it looks cool." Well, guess what? Hancock looks AWESOME. I think it'll battle Iron Man for the number two spot.

Looks like I'll be spending some serious time in the theaters this summer.

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