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'Iron Man 3' scores second biggest debut ever

By Grady Smith, EW.com
updated 11:21 AM EDT, Mon May 6, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Iron Man 3" earned $175.3 million during its opening weekend in North America
  • It's the second best opening weekend of all time behind "The Avengers"
  • In second place at the box office was "Pain & Gain"
  • In third place was the baseball drama "42"

(EW.com) -- Even Tony Stark would be impressed with "Iron Man 3's" incredible domestic opening weekend.

Disney's $200 million superhero sequel earned $175.3 million in its first three days in North America from 4,253 theaters — the second best opening weekend of all time behind "The Avengers'" $207.4 million bow on this weekend a year ago.

The film managed a robust $41,218 per theater average and got a big boost from IMAX screens, which accounted for $16.5 million of its opening weekend gross. About 45 percent of tickets sold were in the 3-D format.

Like "The Avengers," "Iron Man 3" played to a broad spectrum of demographics with a tilt toward older men. According to Disney, audiences were 55 percent above the age of 25 and 61 percent male. Disney also reports that couples made up 52 percent of viewers, while families accounted for 27 percent, and teens 21 percent.

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"Iron Man 3" opened higher than both "Iron Man" ($98.6 million) and "Iron Man 2" ($128.1 million), which isn't all that surprising given that it's arriving after "The Avengers," which earned $623.4 million domestically and became the biggest hit of 2012. It's difficult to imagine that "Iron Man 3" could have garnered such impressive numbers without the boon of "The Avengers" — especially because "Iron Man 2" was tepidly received by most viewers and ultimately finished with less than "Iron Man" ($312.4 million vs. $318.4 million). It's to Marvel's credit that they were able to augment interest in the "Iron Man" franchise with "The Avengers."

Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution, says "The Avengers'" popularity has absolutely played a part in "Iron Man 3's" success — and that it's expected to boost prospects of both the "Thor" and "Captain America" franchises as well.

"We sat here a year ago with 'The Avengers,' and there was speculation of what the impact of such a big weekend and the coming together of all these heroes might mean for each of the subsequent films," he says. "[W]e're first-hand witnessing that the brand is as strong as it's ever been."

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He's right about that. "Iron Man 3" earned a solid "A" CinemaScore, and positive word-of-mouth could propel the film to a domestic finish in the $400 million range, though it faces ample competition over the next few weeks from "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Fast & Furious 6." Still, "Iron Man 3" already seems like the probable winner of the summer box office crown.

Globally, "Iron Man 3's" total stands at an estimated $680.1 million after 12 days of release. In China, the film's number one international market, it's earned a stunning $63.5 million after just five days. "Iron Man 3's" $504.8 million international haul already trumps "Iron Man 2's" $311.5 million international total, and the three-quel appears to be headed for an overseas gross in line with "The Avengers'" $888.4 million total. ("The Avengers" ultimately earned $1.5 billion globally.) Basically, "Iron Man 3" is a lock for a finish above $1 billion worldwide, and right now, a tremendous $1.2 billion total seems likely.

For star Robert Downey Jr., who portrays wise-cracking billionaire Tony Stark, "Iron Man 3" marks the latest incredible success in his Hollywood comeback. A little more than a decade ago, the actor's career appeared dead in the water due to substance abuse arrests and rehab stints, but he's made a turnaround that so few troubled stars ever do. Thanks to the success of the "Iron Man" films, "The Avengers" and the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise, Downey Jr. has starred in a film that grossed over $500 million globally in each of the last five years.

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Of course, there were some other movies at the box office this weekend, too. Last weekend's champ, "Pain & Gain," plummeted 63 percent to $7.6 million, bringing its total to $33.9 million after ten days. While that's not a great result, the Michael Bay-directed action flick cost just $26 million.

In third place is Warner Bros.' only hit this year, the baseball drama "42," which brought in another $6.2 million for a $78.2 million total. The $40 million film may finish with about $90 million domestically.

Fourth place belonged to Universal's Tom Cruise vehicle "Oblivion," which fell by a distressing 67 percent to $5.8 million in its third weekend for a $76 million total. The film has proven exceedingly front-loaded both in the States, where it opened with $37.1 million just two weeks ago, and overseas. Worldwide, "Oblivion" has earned $222 million, which likely is not enough to offset the substantial costs of production ("Oblivion" had a $120 million budget), distribution, and marketing.

"The Croods," a $135 million Fox-distributed/DreamWorks-made animation, finished in the top five once again with $4.2 million, marking a drop of 37 percent. After seven weekends, the caveman comedy has earned $168.7 million (the fact that "Iron Man 3" surpassed that total in just three days is remarkable), and now stands as the third-highest grossing domestic release of 2013 behind "Oz The Great and Powerful" ($228.6 million) and "Iron Man 3." Worldwide, "The Croods" has earned a whopping $517.9 million.

1. "Iron Man 3" -- $175.3 million

2. "Pain & Gain" -- $7.6 million

3. "42" -- $6.2 million

4. "Oblivion" -- $5.8 million

5. "The Croods" -- $4.2 million

Next week brings the release of the hotly anticipated adaptation "The Great Gatsby," as well as Tyler Perry's latest, "Peeples." Neither film is expected to even come close to "Iron Man 3" in its second weekend.

See the original story at EW.com.

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