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'Iron Man 2' not just a hit, but a crowd pleaser too

IronMan2a Given audience affection for the original and the massive marketing push for this sequel, few in Hollywood doubted that "Iron Man 2" would have a massive opening, along the lines of the $133.6 million that it took in this weekend.

The key factor in whether the film will be a hit or a mega-hit, however, is how audiences respond. So far, all signs are positive.

According to market research firm CinemaScore, opening day audiences gave "Iron Man 2" an average grade of A. On Saturday, ticket sales fell only 11% from Friday, another indicator of strong buzz, particularly given that Friday's figure included an additional $7.5 million from midnight screenings Thursday night.

By contrast, ticket sales for superhero sequel "Spider-Man 3," which opened on the same weekend in 2007, fell 14% on its second day. Last year's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which also started the first weekend of May, fell 15% from Friday to Saturday.

Critics were decidedly lukewarm on the picture, resulting in a slightly positive Metacritic score of 57. But "Iron Man 2" is looking less like "The Dark Knight," which defied the history of most genre sequels and was embraced by virtually everyone, and more like films such as last summer's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which skated past critics' sneers to become a smash hit.

"This movie plays like a big action-adventure that's for all audiences other than maybe young kids," said Rob Moore, vice chairman of "Iron Man 2" distributor Paramount Pictures. "It's not the kind of film that grabbed all its money on the first weekend and is done."

With the same sky-high CinemaScore as its predecessor, "Iron Man 2" could end up playing as strongly for several weeks to come as did the original. If so, it would end up with a spectacular final domestic gross of more than $400 million and a worldwide gross that could exceed $800 million.

"Iron Man 2" should again be the No. 1 film this coming weekend as it faces "Robin Hood," which is not tracking for a particularly strong opening. The weekend after, its only new competition, "Shrek Forever After," will target more of a family audience. It's only in three weeks that "Iron Man 2" faces another potentially huge action-adventure film in the video game adaptation "Prince of Persia."

The success of "Iron Man 2," which cost about $170 million to produce, is particularly important for financier Marvel Entertainment, which is owned by Walt Disney Co. The studio is using the film to introduce many characters and concepts from its upcoming movies including "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers." Like "Iron Man" two years ago, those movies are based on characters who are not well-known to non-comic book fans.

"A lot of those things that were below the surface in the first 'Iron Man' we brought more to the forefront in this one so that the mainstream audiences and not just the hard-core fans would notice there's something more going on here," said Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige.

He added that there was "no doubt" there would be an "Iron Man 3" in the near future.

For more on the opening of "Iron Man 2" as well as "Babies," see our initial box-office post.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Iron Man 2" (Marvel/Paramount): Opened to $133.6 million. $57.2 million overseas in 61 foreign territories. International total: $194 million.

2. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (Warner Bros./New Line): Fell 72% on its second weekend to $9.2 million. Opened overseas to $6.7 million in 10 foreign markets. Domestic total: $48.5 million.

3. "How to Train Your Dragon" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $6.8 million, down 36% on its seventh weekend. $4.5 million overseas from 60 foreign territories. Domestic total: $201.1 million. International total: $212 million.

4. "Date Night" (Fox/Dune): $5.3 million on its fifth weekend, down 30%. $4.7 million overseas from 50 foreign markets. Domestic total: $80.9 million. International total: $41.7 million.

5. "The Back-Up Plan" (CBS): $4.3 million on its third weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $29.4 million.

6. "Furry Vengeance" (Summit/Participant/Imagenation): $4 million on its second weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $11.6 million.

7. "Clash of the Titans" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $2.3 million on its sixth weekend, down 61%. $8.8 million overseas from 61 foreign markets. Domestic total: $157.8 million. International total: $295.1 million.

8. "Death at a Funeral" (Sony Screen Gems): $2.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $38.3 million.

9. "The Losers" (Warner Bros./Dark Castle): $1.8 million on its third weekend, down 69%. Domestic total: $21.5 million.

10. "Babies" (Focus): Opened to $1.6 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Don Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man 2." Credit: Industrial Lights and Magic / Marvel Entertainment

RELATED:

'Iron Man 2' coverage over at the Times' Hero Complex blog

 
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