There is apparently no market Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man 3 can’t conquer. After scoring the second-strongest opening ever in North America with $175.3 million, and netting the best-ever bow in scores of territories across Europe and Asia, the Disney tent pole also barreled its way to a record opening in one of the world’s most far-flung and undeveloped movie territories: Myanmar.
Western governments and businesses have warmly embraced the once isolated nation after President Thein Sein began instituting wide-ranging democratic reforms in 2011. With restrictions on the media officially eased and the country's national censorship board known to be loosening its grip on the nation’s modest collection of cinemas, Twentieth Century Fox became the first major American studio in decades to release a Hollywood film in the territory when it premiered Titanic 3D at a cinema in the city of Yangon in Aug. 2012.
Fox didn’t release box-office figures from that experiment, but Disney is confident it has set a new all-time box office record for a Hollywood film in the country, after IM3 grossed $109,000 (or 97.9 million Burmese kyats) during its first week in Burmese cinemas. That number is a mere drop in the ocean of threquel's global haul, which came in at $680.1 million as of Sunday.
The film is currently showing in six locations in Myanmar run by three local cinema operators: two screens in Yangon owned by Junction Cineplex; three screens owned by leading local distributor Mingalar Cinemas (two in Yangon, one in Mandalay); and one screen in Naypyitaw, held by a company called Aung Tha Pyay.
Chris Marsh, Head of Disney Studio Entertainment in Southeast Asia told the Hollywood Reporter in a statement that the Burmese audience has exhibited “great demand for the 3D format” and are “huge fans of action.” Given the country's limited exhibition infrastructure and ticket rates of around $1, one assumes the company’s ambitions in the country with IM3 are more about long-view audience building than making any real money now. With a population of nearly 50 million gradually joining the global economy, the country may emerge in the not-too-distant future as a new frontier for international entertainment producers and distributors.
At several locations across Yangon, Robert Downey Jr.’s intricately facial-haired mein can currently be seen staring down from full-scale Iron Man 3 billboard advertisements – a vision unthinkable in the one-time pariah nation as recently as three years ago.