Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby movie adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic 1920s novel. A risky move? Well, if so, it has clearly paid off. Although The Great Gatsby will not top the North American box office this weekend, it'll land in a remarkably (and surprisingly) strong second slot. (Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby movie adaptation, with Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.)
Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man 3 will easily lead the domestic box office charge with approximately $65-70m, after plummeting 71 percent on Friday, compared to the previous week. True, opening-day Friday also included the box office take from Thursday late night showings, but, for comparison's sake, The Avengers was down 64 percent during that same time frame.
So, this weekend's real box office story is that of the no. 2 movie, The Great Gatsby: with the assistance of 3D surcharges and reportedly a sizable chunk of female ticket-buyers, the fourth big-screen version of Fitzgerald's novel debuted with a highly impressive $19.4 million at 3,535 North American locations on Friday, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Note: That figure includes $3.25 million from late Thursday night showings.
Such a solid Friday opening indicates a weekend gross around $50-52m. If that figure is on target, The Great Gatsby will have 2013's third biggest opening weekend, behind only Iron Man 3 ($174.14m) and Sam Raimi / James Franco's Oz the Great and Powerful ($79.11m) -- both, unlike The Great Gatsby (despite the funky Billboard-hit soundtrack), aimed at teenagers and children.
Also of note, The Great Gatsby will open ahead of two other such movies targeting adolescents and kids, Channing Tatum / Dwayne Johnson's G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($40.5m) and Joseph Kosinski / Tom Cruise's Oblivion ($37.05m). Oblivion is the only one among those five 2013 releases that is not in 3D.
The Great Gatsby cost a reported $105 million, after rebates. The film's actual cost ranges between $160-$200m, depending on the source.
The Great Gatsby movie: Leonardo DiCaprio's second biggest opening weekend ever?
In case The Great Gatsby truly earns $50m or more by Sunday evening, it'll deliver Leonardo DiCaprio's second-highest opening weekend ever -- even factoring in inflation. Only Christopher Nolan's special-effects-laden Inception, which debuted in summer 2010 with $62.78 million (approx. $64 million today) remains unbeatable.
For comparison's sake, Quentin Tarantino's R-rated Django Unchained opened with $30.12m; Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar with $11.21m; Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island with $41.06m; Ridley Scott's Body of Lies, co-starring Russell Crowe, with $12.88m; and Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can with $30.05 million in 2002, or approx. $41 million adjusted. In fact, on opening weekend The Great Gatsby will have grossed more than J. Edgar, Revolutionary Road, and Body of Lies collected during each of these films' entire inflation-adjusted run.
Now, there are a couple of things that one has to bear in mind. First of all, The Great Gatsby's weekend box office figures also include late Thursday showings, a luxury not afforded previous DiCaprio movies. Second, The Great Gatsby is in 3D -- which moviegoers can enjoy if they pay up to 40 percent above regular movie-ticket prices.
And that leads us to Titanic. James Cameron's iceberg love story co-starring Kate Winslet took in $28.63 million in late 1997 -- or about $49.5 million in 2013 dollars. It's a close call. The Great Gatsby will likely surpass Titanic in terms of opening-weekend box office grosses (with the assistance of Thursday showings), but will undoubtedly trail the sinking-ship movie in actual number of tickets sold.
Additionally, The Great Gatsby will far surpass Baz Luhrmann's previous U.S. and Canada opening-weekend record holder, the Hugh Jackman / Nicole Kidman romantic drama Australia, which debuted with $14.8 million in 2008. Now, if inflation is taken into account (as it always should), Luhrmann's biggest North American debut was that of Romeo + Juliet, starring DiCaprio himself and Claire Danes, which brought in $11.13 million on its debut weekend in 1996, or approximately $20m today.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan head The Great Gatsby movie cast
In addition to three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond) and Carey Mulligan (2009 Best Actress Oscar nominee for An Education), The Great Gatsby movie features former Spider-Man Tobey Maguire, and Zero Dark Thirty's Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke.
Also: Isla Fisher, Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan, Elizabeth Debicki, Callan McAuliffe, Max Cullen, Gemma Ward, Barry Otto, and veteran Jack Thompson (Breaker Morant, The Assassination of Richard Nixon). Baz Luhrmann and frequent collaborator Craig Pearce (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, besides the non-Luhrmann Zac Efron movie Charlie St. Cloud) co-wrote the 2013 The Great Gatsby screenplay.
And these are the previous big-screen versions of The Great Gatsby: Herbert Brenon's in 1926, starring Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson; Elliott Nugent's in 1949, with Alan Ladd and Betty Field; and Jack Clayton's poorly received 1974 try-out, with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
The Great Gatsby movie launches the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on May 15.
Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio The Great Gatsby movie photo: Warner Bros.