LOS ANGELES -- Leonard DiCaprio's "The Great Gatsby" partied like it was the Roaring Twenties with a $51.1 million debut that made it a surprisingly strong runner-up to comic-book blockbuster "Iron Man 3."
Studio figures put "Gatsby" at No. 2 behind Robert Downey Jr.'s superhero sequel, which pulled in $72.5 million domestically to raise its total to $284.9 million after just 10 days in U.S. theaters.
"The Great Gatsby" far exceeded expectations by distributor Warner Bros. of a $35 million to $40 million opening weekend.
Director Baz Luhrmann's 3-D adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic was a rare box-office smash for films aimed at older adults during the youth-minded summer season. According to Warner Bros., viewers over 25 made up 69 percent of the film's audience.
"It answers the question that you and I hear all the time from people over 50, ‘There's nothing for me to see,' " said Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution. "While every studio has the $200 million tentpoles in the marketplace, you still have those who feel that it's not directed at them, which is true. So that's why I think counterprogramming like this is very important."
The weekend's other new wide release, Lionsgate's romantic comedy "Peeples," flopped at No. 4 with just $4.9 million. Produced by Tyler Perry, the movie stars Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington in a meet-the-parents-style farce.
Starring DiCaprio in the title role as 1920s mystery millionaire Jay Gatsby, the latest Fitzgerald update co-stars Carey Mulligan as his lost love and Tobey Maguire as the friend chronicling their doomed romance.
In just one weekend, "The Great Gatsby" nearly matched the $57.4 million domestic haul that Luhrmann's top-grossing film, the musical "Moulin Rouge!", managed in its entire run.
"Gatsby" also gave DiCaprio his second-biggest debut, behind the $62.8 million take for "Inception."
How well the film holds up in coming weeks depends on word-of-mouth from fans. Reviews for "The Great Gatsby" have been so-so, with many critics saying it sacrifices drama and substance for style and dazzle.
"Iron Man 3" was down a steep 58 percent from its opening weekend haul, no surprise given that its $174.1 million domestic debut was the second-biggest ever. The only film to do more business was Downey and company's ensemble adventure "The Avengers," which topped $200 million in its premiere last year.
"This is on a trajectory like no other individual superhero movie we've ever seen," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "In less than three weeks, this thing is honing in on a billion dollars. It's just a testament to the incredible popularity of this character."