Iron Man 3 took in an estimated $175.3 million in its opening weekend, which began in Thursday midnight showings and ended yesterday (Sunday, 5 May).
That’s not as much as The Avengers, which took in $207.4 million in its opening weekend. But it’s a huge improvement over Iron Man 2‘s $128.1 million, which was itself a big improvement over Iron Man‘s $98.6.
Because Iron Man 3 debuted in many nations earlier than it did in the United States, the film has already taken in an estimated $680.1 million in all locations.
Iron Man 3‘s improvement is especially remarkable, given that Iron Man 2 was widely seen as a creative disappointment. It’s frequently the case that the opening of a sequel reflects a creative judgment on the previous film. If a film is good and gained fans after it left theaters, its sequel may perform better. But if a film is bad, this disappointment can also be carried forward.
Another factor against Iron Man 3 is that the third film is a series usually doesn’t do as well as the first two. Iron Man 3 has defied this trend as well.
It’s also worth considering the departure of Jon Favreau, who directed the first two films, who was replaced by Shane Black. Favreau did remain involved in the third installment, however, even reprising his portrayal of Happy Hogan in Black’s film.
It seems to be that audiences treated Iron Man 3 less as a sequel to Iron Man 2 than as the seventh movie in the Marvel cinematic universe — and especially as a follow-up to the record-breaking The Avengers.
This is particularly significant because it suggests that audiences understand the Marvel cinematic universe as a line, so that individual entries are buoyed by that line’s success — although it remains to be see whether this advantage also works in reverse, should a major film disappoint.
Given the success of the Iron Man films and the popularity of Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark, it’s unlikely that the other three films between now and The Avengers 2 will exceed Iron Man 3.
The following films are part of the Marvel cinematic universe and have already been announced:
- Thor: The Dark World (8 Nov 2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4 April 2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (1 Aug 2014)
- The Avengers 2 (1 May 2015)
- Ant-Man (6 Nov 2015)
In addition, a pilot for a TV series set in the same universe, entitled Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and starring a resurrected Agent Coulson, has been filmed for ABC, although no airdate or order for a full season has yet to be announced.
Analysts are especially anxious to see how Guardians of the Galaxy performs, given that it’s far less known than the other properties in the series. Then again, the entire Marvel cinematic universe was built around characters that weren’t considered bankable at the box office.