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Proving that an auteur-driven drama can hold its own against an action tentpole, Baz Luhrmann‘s effervescent The Great Gatsby opened to $51.1 million at the North American box office in a major win for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures.
The other new entry of Mother’s Day weekend was Tyler Perry Presents: Peeples, starring Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington. From Lionsgate and produced by Perry, the family wedding comedy bombed with a $4.9 million debut (Tyler neither stars in nor directed the film).
PHOTOS: ‘Great Gatsby’ Premiere
Gatsby, outpacing expectations, came in at No. 2 behind holdover Iron Man 3, which took in $72.5 million in its second weekend for a domestic cume of $284.9 million. Overseas, the Disney and Marvel Studios goliath grossed $89.3 million for an international total of $664.1 million and worldwide haul of nearly $950 million.
Luhrmann’s 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is easily the Australian director’s best opening to date and also reinforces Leonardo DiCaprio‘s box-office prowess among the female set. The actor, playing the iconic and mysterious Jay Gatsby, stars opposite Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton.
“We positioned the film as counterprogramming for the lucrative summer playtime and weave our way through the stream of fanboy tentpoles to a long successful run at the box office,” Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman says. “Star Trek opens next weekend and that certainly isn’t our audience.”
THR COVER: Baz Luhrmann’s Despair, Drive and Gamble Behind ‘Great Gatsby’
The stellar domestic launch bodes well for Gatsby‘s international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival’s opening night on May 15. It also bodes well for Luhrmann, considering that Gatsby has already out-earned the entire domestic run of his last film Australia ($49.6 million), as well as almost catching with up with the final domestic cume of Moulin Rouge! ($57.4 million).
Gatsby cost about $105 million after $85 million in hefty Australian locations subsidies. The movie’s cast also include Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke.
Heading into the weekend, many box office observers expected Gatsby to appeal heavily to females. But more men turned out than expected, making up 41 percent of those buying tickets. And younger moviegoers made up a large share of the audience (31 percent were under the age of 25).
Those under the age of 25 gave the film an A- CinemaScore as they wholeheartedly embraced Luhrmann’s over-the-top take on Gatsby, which features a modern-day score executive produced by Jay-Z and The Bullitts.
Paramount’s Pain and Gain came in No. 3 in its third weekend, grossing $5 million for a domestic total of $41.6 million. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.’ 42 placed No. 5, grossing $4.7 million for a North American total of $84.7 million.
At the specialty box office, Roadside Attractions’ Mud expanded into a total of 854 theaters, grossing $2.5 million for a domestic total of $18.3 million in its third weekend.
Roadside also saw strong results for Sarah Polley‘s critically acclaimed autobiographical documentary Stories We Tell, which opened in two theaters in New York, grossing $31,000 for a location average of $15,500. Grosses shot up 172 percent from Friday to Saturday, indicating stellar word-of-mouth.
Among arthouse holdovers, Millennium Entertainment’s mob pic The Iceman, starring Michael Shannon, grossed $108,520 in its second weekend from 17 theaters for a location average of $6,384 and cume of $236,049.
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