Iron Man 3 stole all the global box office headlines over the last two weeks, breaking records in nearly every territory and grossing over $800 million. The film has its sights set on the $1 billion global mark and might reach it in the coming weeks if it can keep up its performance.
Iron Man 3 has shown no signs of slowing down in its overseas release, with one glaring exception: Japan. Iron Man 3 lost the #1 spot at the box office in Japan during its second week in release. Japan is one of the world's major film markets, so it came as a surprise to see the superhero film relinquish the top spot to a domestic film that was enjoying its third week in theaters. Will other top global markets follow Japan's lead this weekend, or will Iron Man continue to soar?
The big question, as often seems to be the case lately, comes from China, where Iron Man 3 has already shattered box office records to reach a $79.6 million gross. Iron Man 3 has co-existed well with another blockbuster in the market, the Chinese drama So Young. The two films haven't taken any significant business away from one another, but that will likely change with the premieres of Oblivion (May 10) and the rescheduled release of Django Unchained (May 12). Django will take the May 12 release as a "better than nothing" compromise after being pulled from theaters only minutes after its original opening last month. Quentin Tarantino's Blaxploitation Western has grossed $421 million globally and will hope to reach the $500 million benchmark if the film can find an audience in China.
Oblivion opened with a strong overseas premiere last month but has experienced a steep drop-off in subsequent weeks. The Tom Cruise film has underperformed, falling behind in multiple key markets after its initial success. Oblivion is sandwiched between Iron Man and Django, an uncomfortable proposition for Tom Cruise, whose latest Mission: Impossible sequel broke through in China but floundered with the recent Alex Cross fiasco. Tom Cruise's star-power in China will be put to the test when it goes head-to-head against the already massively successful Iron Man sequel and Django Unchained's highly-publicized taboo factor. Oblivion has grossed $223 globally and could potentially reach $300 million if it gains traction in China. In the unlikely event it survives its crowded release date, a $300 million global gross would still put Tom Cruise's latest behind the global numbers of the latest Die Hard and G.I. Joe sequels.
Outside of China, Iron Man 3 will have to contend with another recognizable franchise with a loyal global following. Star Trek: Into Darkness opens in six territories this weekend, including major markets like Australia, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. The U.K. is Iron Man's third most important market, where it has already grossed $43.1 million. Mexico follows with a $38.6 million gross and Australia is the superhero sequel's seventh most important territory with $30 million. The Star Trek release could potentially cut into these markets, slowing down Iron Man 3 in vital territories as it heads towards $1 billion. If Iron Man 3 withstands the threat from Star Trek, it will cost J.J. Abrams' film a considerable amount of money from major overseas markets unwilling to dedicate as many screens to the sci-fi reboot's sequel while Iron Man is still in full force. Iron Man 3 fell 54% in Mexico and the U.K. in its second weekend. The superhero sequel saw a 56% decline in business in the same span in Australia. Iron Man 3 will have to experience an even bigger drop in those markets if Star Trek hopes to realize its overseas expectations.
These are high stakes for four of the year's biggest movies. China is still the major market for studios, but crowded release dates and the audience's attachment to domestic films is bound to disappoint at least one of the three big Hollywood films playing there this weekend. Even if Iron Man 3 continues to succeed in China this weekend, it can still see its record-setting grosses begin to slow if Star Trek: Into Darkness overtakes it in other markets.