05/16/2010 07:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Weekend Box Office Review: Iron Man 2 Retains Top Spot

I've said this countless times, but it remains true. If studios budget a film so that said film basically has to set records in some capacity (be it personal bests for the director or star), they are always setting themselves up for disaster. You can't count on every Jim Carrey comedy to pull in Bruce Almighty numbers anymore than you can expect every Russell Crowe movie to play like Gladiator. So if you're looking to budget a Ridley Scott movie starring Russell Crowe, you might want to notice that their personal best is indeed Gladiator, which grossed $187 million in the US and $457 million worldwide. Thus, you might not want to spend so much that said new movie absolutely has to gross around those figures in order to break even. But, accidentally or otherwise, that is just what Universal has done with Robin Hood. So what should have been a fine opening weekend turns into a sigh of relief.

Costing as much as $237 million (with apparent tax breaks knocking the price down to $155 million), the Ridley Scott prequel-tale of the famous Sherwood Forest archer opened with $37.1 million in domestic box office and $111.1 million in worldwide grosses. Universal expected the overseas numbers to carry the day and that seems to be what is happening thus far. The film grossed $74 million in overseas dollars, or twice what it grossed in America (it was number 01 in fifty-two foreign territories). The film is actually Universal's second-biggest overseas opening, behind the $84 million foreign debut of King Kong in December 2005. In America, the film scored just a 'B-' in Cinema Score polling, implying a short run due to indifferent or negative word of mouth. The film also played 62% over 30 years old, which could actually be a positive (the gender split was 56% male). With no real adult offerings until the nostalgia-fueled The A-Team on June 11th (my late Pappa Joe would have loved to see that), the film could survive as a second-choice for general adult moviegoers who have already seen Iron Man 2 and don't care for the R-rated shenanigans of MacGruber or Sex and the City 2. Ironically, in terms of the dreaded 'second film of summer' curse, Robin Hood scored the biggest opening weekend ever to not be number one during the second weekend of summer. Only Troy ($44 million) and Star Trek ($79 million) opened better. The rest of the contenders on this weekend have been littered with low-budget adult vehicles (The Horse Whisperer, Monster-In-Law), or over-budgeted financial disasters (Dragonheart, Poseidon, Speed Racer).

Outside variables aside, this is Russel Crowe's biggest opening weekend as a stand-alone draw, and his second-biggest opening ever behind American Gangster ($43 million) which starred Denzel Washington. This is director Ridley Scott's third-biggest debut, behind Hannibal ($58 million) and American Gangster. I have no idea what caused costs to shoot so high, but the escalating budget turned what should have been a solid win for Universal into a near-miss. Frankly, considering the poor reviews and drab marketing materials ("It's like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but less entertaining!"), I'm genuinely shocked it opened as well as it did. This is certainly not as problematic as the disastrous showings of The Wolfman ($138 million worldwide gross on a $150 million budget) and The Green Zone ($86 million worldwide gross on a $100 million budget). With all of the hub-bub about the adult-driven drama or adult thriller being dead, I will say over and over again that it is very much alive and profitable if the films can be made for under $50 million. Universal and company got lucky with Robin Hood. If the film can cross $100 million in the US and get to $400 million worldwide, it might have a shot at long-term profitability. But, had costs been reasonably contained (say, no more than $125 million), this would count as a genuine hit.

Letters From Juliet opened pretty well for a Summit release. The $13.9 million debut is the fourth-biggest debut in the company history, behind the Twilight films and the $22 million debut of Knowing. The film was more of a stereotypical 'chick flick' than the war-torn romance of Dear John, so a similar opening was never in the cards. As a test of Amanda Seyfried's star power, it was an okay display, as the film wasn't selling anything but Seyfried, unless you're able to argue that Vanessa Redgrave can open a movie. Regardless, Summit certainly tried their best this time around, with long-lead press screenings (which backfired when the reviews were negative) and a national sneak preview last Sunday (the film scored an 'A-' from Cinema Score this weekend), and the $30 million film has already had much of its costs worked out through sale of foreign distribution rights. Demos were a whopping 81% female and 63% over 25 years old. Expect Seyfried to regain some luster when the more buzz-worthy April 2011 release, The Girl with the Red Riding Hood. That horror picture is directed by Catherine Hardwicke and stars Julie Christie and the sure-to-perish Gary Oldman. The other main wide release was Just Wright, which opened to a mediocre $8.5 million. The Queen Latifah/Common romantic comedy set in the world of NBA basketball perhaps dropped the ball by opening in the midst of the NBA playoffs. If your team won, you were probably busy celebrating over the weekend. If you're from Cleveland, you were probably contemplating suicide. Point being, the Fox Searchlight release opened well below the $12 million debuts of Beauty Shop, Last Holiday, and Taxi.

How did Iron Man 2 perform in its second weekend? What 2010 release has become one of the highest-grossing films of all time worldwide? For that and more, read the rest of this article at Mendelson's Memos.