"The Great Gatsby" is heating up in tracking, social media and advance ticket sales, but it still doesn't look like it will melt down "Iron Man 3" at the box office this weekend.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in one of the summer's most unusual and intriguing offerings, Baz Luhrmann's 3D extravaganza "The Great Gatsby," arriving in theaters Friday. What could be the most expensive costume drama ever made – distributor Warner Bros. puts the budget at $100 million once tax breaks are figured in – is clearly building momentum. But its chances of knocking "Iron Man 3" out of the top spot look slim.
Even if Disney's Marvel superhero sequel falls 60 percent from what was the second-best three-day U.S. debut ever, it will ring up around $70 million in its second week. That's about $25 million-$30 million more than analysts are projecting for "The Great Gatsby," a Warner Bros.-Village Roadshow co-production.
"'Gatsby' should play well with couples," BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino told TheWrap. "Women will be drawn by the romance and costumes and Leo. And enough guys grew up with the book that they'll be game to come along. This is a date-night movie."
Online ticket broker Fandango reported Thursday that "Gatsby" was accounting for 65 percent of its sales, outselling Disney's box-office superhero sequel, which has taken in $204 million since opening in the U.S. last Friday and amassed more than $560 million internationally since rolling out overseas two weeks ago.
Luhrmann's take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel isn't typical summer fare, and in fact Warner Bros. originally planned to release the film last Christmas. It's not a sequel, it's set in pre-Great Depression America and there's nary a superhero to be found. But the marketing campaign Warner Bros. has mounted is tentpole-sized, and the film will be rolled out in more than 3,350 theaters, the majority of them 3D.
Luhrmann, who also wrote the script for "Gatsby," hasn't made a lot of movies. His directorial debut came in on 1993's "Strictly Ballroom" and "The Great Gatsby" is just his fifth film.
His most recent effort was "Australia," a sprawling Down Under epic that cost $130 million to make and took in a disappointing $211 million worldwide for Fox in 2008. "Moulin Rouge!" was his biggest earner, taking in nearly $180 million globally in 2001, and "Romeo + Juliet," which also featured DiCaprio, made $147.5 million worldwide in 1996.
"Moulin Rouge!" was a musical and the soundtrack for "Romeo + Juliet" helped drive the box-office success of that film. Warner Bros. is hoping "Gatsby" will get a similar boost from its Jay-Z-produced soundtrack, which features Beyonce, Andre 3000 and Lana Del Rey, among others.
Facebook activity surrounding "Gatsby" has been strong and Twitter notices have spiked in the past few days, and that's due at least in part to the buzz surrounding the music. Three days from its debut, "Gatsby" was the subject of 33,974 tweets, compared with the 3,528 that "Les Miserables" had at a similar juncture, according to BoxOffice.com.
"That's a good sign," Contrino said, "particularly for a movie that in theory skews older. Teenagers driven by the soundtrack could be their ace in the hole." It's rated PG-13, and that should help broaden its base.
The week's other wide opener is "Tyler Perry Presents Peeples," a low-budget PG-13 comedy from Lionsgate.
Perry's films have on average opened to more than $20 million, but he's only producing on this project and it's likely to come in at about half that number.
Tina Gordon Chisum, a screenwriter on "Drumline," wrote the script and makes her directing debut on "Peeples." Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington and David Alan Grier star in the tale of a young man who crashes a family reunion in the Hamptons to ask for the hand of his true love.
Lionsgate is targeting African-American female movie-goers and hoping that its gets a boost from mothers and daughters looking to celebrate the Mother's Day weekend at the multiplex. it will be in 2,041 theaters.