The Great Gatsby's Box Office Could Be Greater Than You Think

Lavish Leonardo DiCaprio 3-D drama on track for opening-weekend debut north of $40 million, projections say; Iron Man 3 should remain at No. 1

By Joal Ryan May 09, 2013 2:47 PMTags
The Great GatsbyWarner Bros

The knives are out, but The Great Gatsby's box-office stock is not exactly down.

The lavish Leonardo DiCaprio 3-D drama, already accused in more than one headline of being a "flop," is on track for an opening-weekend debut north of $40 million, the latest projections say.

A debut of that size almost assuredly won't be enough to dethrone the massively popular Iron Man 3, which even if it were to drop like a big metal rock should still come up with at least $52.5 million (and, should it prove resilient like The Avengers, maybe as much as $87.5 million).

Still, a $40 million-esque weekend for Gatsby would mark a career best for director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) and rank the film up there with Shutter Island on DiCaprio's list.

More key, it would avoid the box-office disaster some (or some headlines, at least) seem to be bracing for.

"The Great Gatsby needs to open with at least $35 million," Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock said in an email, "which it should be able to achieve if it connects with women and younger audiences."

The Great Gatsby, once slated for a Christmas release, is a summer anomaly; it's based not on a superhero comic book but on F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous 1925 novel of jazz-age infidelity.

In a Wall Street analysis of the summer movie slate that was widely reported by the Hollywood trade press last week, Cowen and Co. analyst Doug Creutz wrote that Gatsby's very distinctness would make it one of the season's 12 biggest hits of the season, and predicted the film would hit $150 million domestically.      

(No spare art-house drama, Bock said the $125 million-plus film will to need clear about $300 million worldwide to considered a box-office success.)

But the run-up to Gatsby's release—the movie arrives as early as tonight at some theaters—has been less about bullish projections and more about disappointing reviews.

At last look, its RottenTomatoes score was at 47 percent (and climbing, for what it's worth); the Atlantic Wire compiled a list of blurbs the movie would never want blurbed.

If it's any consolation to DiCaprio's film, the 1974 Robert Redford Great Gatsby also was prebranded a "flop" by critics; it opened at No. 1.