LOS ANGELES – Gatsby looks almost as great as a superhero at the weekend box office.
Leonard DiCaprio’s The Great Gatsby partied like it was the Roaring ’20s with a $51.1 million debut that made it a surprisingly strong runner-up to comic-book blockbuster Iron Man 3.
Studio estimates Sunday put Gatsby at No. 2 behind Robert Downey Jr.’s superhero sequel, which pulled in $72.5 million domestically to raise its total to $284.9 million after just 10 days in U.S. and Canadian theatres.
With an additional $89.3 million in its third weekend overseas, Iron Man 3 lifted its international total to $664.1 million and its worldwide haul to $949 million.
The Great Gatsby far exceeded expectations by distributor Warner Bros. of a $35 million to $40 million opening weekend.
Director Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic was a rare box-office smash for films aimed at older adults during the youth-minded summer season. According to Warner Bros., viewers over 25 made up 69 per cent of the film’s audience.
“It answers the question that you and I hear all the time from people over 50, ‘There’s nothing for me to see,'” said Dan Fellman, the studio’s head of distribution. “While every studio has the $200 million tentpoles in the marketplace, you still have those who feel that it’s not directed at them, which is true. So that’s why I think counterprogramming like this is very important.”
The weekend’s other new wide release, the romantic comedy Peeples, flopped at No. 4 with just $4.9 million. Produced by Tyler Perry, the movie stars Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington in a meet-the-parents-style farce.
Getting a head start on its domestic launch Friday, Star Trek: Into Darkness opened with $31.7 million in seven international markets. Its overseas debut included $13.3 million in Great Britain, $7.6 million in Germany and $5.5 million in Australia.
Gatsby was by far the biggest debut ever for filmmaker Luhrmann, whose previous best was $14.8 million for Australia. In just one weekend, The Great Gatsby nearly matched the $57.4 million domestic haul that Luhrmann’s top-grossing film, the musical Moulin Rouge!, managed in its entire run.
Gatsby also gave DiCaprio his second-biggest debut, behind the $62.8 million take for Inception.
The film’s success follows a bumpy road to theatres. Originally scheduled for release last December, Warner Bros. pushed it back to summer to give Luhrmann more time to finish his elaborate visual spectacle.
How well the film holds up in coming weeks depends on word-of-mouth from fans. Reviews for The Great Gatsby have been so-so, with many critics saying it sacrifices drama and substance for style and dazzle, including Lurhmann’s elaborate party scenes backed by a contemporary soundtrack featuring Jay-Z, Beyonce and Lana Del Rey.
Iron Man 3 was down a steep 58 per cent from its opening weekend haul, no surprise given that its $174.1 million domestic debut was the second-biggest ever. The only film to do more business was Downey and company’s ensemble adventure The Avengers, which topped $200 million in its premiere last year.