Iron Man 3 weighed in with the second biggest movie opening of all times, but since it was right behind The Avengers, you could say it was all in the family still. The third movie staring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark opened with $175.3 million for the weekend (the Avengers did $207.4 mil) and has already raced to $680.1 million globally. That is a lot of cheddar.

While everyone can be happy with the opening, it was also the last film on Downey’s contract, meaning he might not be back for an Iron Man 4 or (even worse in our opinion) Avengers 2. The investors board, Motley Fool, is already crying “Marvel Must Get Robert Downey Jr. Back for “Iron Man 4” . While Downey says he’s renegotiating his contract, you’ll recall that Marvel Studios is legendarily thrifty when it comes to paying stars, and if one demands too much, they get bounced. In fact, it was already hinted that the Tony Stark character could be James Bonded, with a new actor in the role.

RDJ was still on the comeback trail when he signed up for Iron Man #1, now he’s starred in two of the biggest movies in history. So he probably won’t come too cheaply. But with so much at stake, expect Disney/Marvel to release a little bit from the coffers to keep Downey on board.

Meanwhile, the mastermind behind all this, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, is revealing snippets of info on Phase 3 and beyond of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like, for instance, Doctor Strange.

On Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige stated, "Within the next year or so we'll really start the advanced planning on post – Avengers 2, and I would love Strange to be a part of that. There's a whole supernatural/magic dimension going on in Marvel comics that we haven't ever touched on." His statement is pretty much in line with what was reported earlier this week from other media outlets. However, it's a noticeable step back from his previous statement in January where he said Doctor Strange was "definitely" going to be one of the Phase III films. With a number of character rights recently returning to Marvel Studios, has that made Doctor Strange's Phase III roster spot less certain?

And what of Feige’s own contract? Collider asked when it ran out:

FEIGE:  I don’t know, the truth of the matter is, I always sort of set a goal or set a horizon line and look towards that. Then say, “Once I get to that horizon line I will see where we stand.”  For a long time it was X-Men 2 and then for a long time it was Iron Man and Incredible Hulk – are we going to be a studio by then or not?  Is it going to work or is it not?  Then it was Avengers, now it’s Avengers 2.  So, two years after that, three years after that, I can’t even begin to guess.

Feige has developed into the planner behind one of the most profitable movie franchises in history—although franchise doesn’t even do it justice. Imagine if Star Wars had somehow split off into individual Boba Fett and Mace Windu movies, or if Harry Potter had solo Hermione and Ron movies. Feige was only building on the interconnectivity of the Marvel Universe of the comics, but he was smart enough to figure out how to do it.

Now if only Disney/Marvel would pledge .01% of the receipts of all of their films to The Hero Initiative. Good box office, good reviews, and good karma? How amazing would that be.


  1. ” you’ll recall that Marvel Studios is legendarily thrifty when it comes to paying stars, and if one demand too much, they get bounced. ”

    That doesn’t seem to apply to RDjr who they paid @$50 million (including backend bonuses) for the avengers – so I am guessing after the success of Iron Man 3, that is going to the “at least” number?

  2. As much as I enjoy RDJ. Let’s not forget that the audience also goes to see the movie, character(s) and genera . He is only one aspect on the success of the movie. If the movie sucked, the fans would be looking for his head, even thou the writers and or director could also be the blame. Anybody can be replaced, no matter how good they are. It has worked pretty well in the Bond films. Could also bring a different take on the characters.

  3. i agree that it would be nice if disney donated some of those box office billios to some worthy comics related causes, but i wouldn’t hold my breath. i dont know if it generates enough PR goodwill to make it worth it.

    but maybe RDjr could shave off a millio or two from his massive comic book movie star windfall and donate that? or some of the other individuals who are collecting the marvel movie paychecks? its a lot easier for people to donate money than corporations.

  4. The Hero Initiative donation idea is a great one, but I agree with Jaroslev Hasek that Marvel won’t do it. The problem is one of exposure. If the actors and directors, etc. involved in these movies were aware of the problem, I have no doubt that they would donate money or host fundraisers for comic creators in need. As cynical as people can be about Hollywood, the artists themselves tend to be quite generous when given the opportunity. We just need to get the word out in some way other than a quick mention at the bottom of a story about box office receipts and contract negotiations on an insular comic book blog.

  5. The huge success of the Iron Man films is entirely due to the general public loving RDJ as Iron Man (comparing Iron Man to James Bond is hilarious). It’s possible they could accept another actor in the role at some point, but in a relaunch, not a recast in Iron Man 4. And I think they’d be insane not to give RDJ whatever he wants to be in Avengers 2. He’s the big draw.

  6. Oh, that wasn’t a dig against The Beat and I’m sorry if it came off that way. I’m just saying the right words need to reach the right ears, y’know?

  7. Actors are always considered replaceable in these franchise films. If you grew up in the ’60s, it was impossible to imagine anyone but Sean Connery as Bond. But Connery was replaced. So far, three actors have played Bruce Banner in movies. I hope Downey returns, but if he doesn’t, Marvel and Disney WILL hire someone else.

    Anyway, the action scenes in these films are performed by CGI figures or stunt men, so does it matter to a studio who’s wearing the armor?

  8. ” in the ’60s, it was impossible to imagine anyone but Sean Connery as Bond. But Connery was replaced.”
    Actually, I think the more appropriate response is “Connery walked away, then Cubby Broccoli got George Lazenby, who famously didn’t get along with the producer. So then the film studio begged Connery to come back for the mediocre “Diamonds Are Forever”, and paid him a $1.25 million salary (which was a record payout at the time).

    Disney/Marvel might as well avoid the trouble of getting a ‘Lazenby’ and just give Downey whatever he wants. It’ll save them a lot of time.

  9. Hulk has been portrayed three times, but neither of the first two struck a chord the way RDJ has as Stark. When these movies start hitting the type of numbers that IM/Avengers has, it’s never due to any one factor, but there is no doubt RDJ is a big draw. And as was noted earlier he has been compensated extremely well by Marvel, so I expect they will back up the Brinks truck to at least get him for the Avengers sequel.

  10. Joe Quesada is on the board of the Hero Initiative, so maybe some Marvel business is going into the charity.

  11. I just want that Hermione solo movie. Ron, I can take or leave. Mostly leave.

    Back to Iron Man and RDJ–I think it’s too early to get upset about anything. Of COURSE everyone is going to downplay how eager they are to come back/have him come back to the role. They will as long as they’re still negotiating, and we’re not likely to find out what’s real until and unless the ink is drying on the contract.

  12. I just want real movie posters back.

    Remember those? Before the plague of photo-shopped garbage?

  13. Did anyone see RDJ on the Daily Show? He definitely showed interest in continuing with the franchise, which seemed refreshing to me. I hate it when actors whine about how tough their lucrative franchise is.

  14. Pay the man. He’s entirely responsible for Marvel Studios having a Phase Anything. There’s one reason why the Captain America and Thor movies make half of what the Iron Man movies do–Robert Downey Jr.

    Bruce Banner has been played by 3 different actors and two of them sucked–the ones not named Edward Norton.

    Iron Man 3 wasn’t that good. I just watched it last night, and the only parts that stay with me are the funny parts that are entirely due to the personas created by the actors. Robert Downey Jr is the only thing left in the Iron Man films worth watching thanks to the Comic-Book-ification of the franchise. Aside from one bit, the action was forgettable, but the wit and charm of the actors in their roles and how they relate to each other is the magic that nets them hundreds of millions. Go ahead and replace him and see what happens. Turn your movie franchises into comic books and you’ll get the same audience erosion.

    Oblivion was a better movie.

  15. “Bruce Banner has been played by 3 different actors and two of them sucked–the ones not named Edward Norton.”

    Mark Ruffalo didn’t suck.

  16. When “Avengers” came out, I was surprised to hear comics fans say they had never heard of Mark Ruffalo and had never seen him in anything, even though he’s been a steady presence in movies for 20 years.

    Then I realized that the only movies these fans see are superhero movies and other digital spectacles. In other words: franchise films. Ruffalo hadn’t been in that kind of movie until “Avengers,” so fans didn’t know who he was. They had burrowed so deeply into their favored niche, they were unaware of anything outside it.

    Here’s a commentary by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick La Salle, who is definitely not a fan of computer-generated blockbusters:

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