First look: 'Iron Man 2' soars with $134-million opening
Hollywood kicked off its most important time of the year, summer-event movie season, with an explosive start for "Iron Man 2," which sold an estimated $133.6 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada.
That's the fifth-highest opening weekend of all time, not accounting for ticket-price inflation, and a sign that audience interest in Marvel Entertainment's superhero played by Robert Downey Jr. has grown significantly since the first movie debuted with $98.6 million in 2008.
Some Hollywood executives closely following pre-release audience surveys had said "Iron Man 2" could come close to or exceed the largest opening weekend of all time: $158.4 million for "The Dark Knight" in 2008. But although the new film fell short of that mark, it's still a hugely successful start.
Overseas, "Iron Man 2" raked in another $57.2 million, this weekend, its second weekend in most foreign countries. That brings its international total to $194 million and worldwide take so far to $327.6 million.
"Iron Man 2" had by far the biggest domestic opening of the year, a particular achievement given that it didn't play in 3-D and so didn't carry the ticket-price surcharges that provided a boost to other top films including "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland."
In particularly good news for those behind the picture, audiences disagreed with mostly lukewarm critics and embraced "Iron Man 2," giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. TIcket sales fell only 11% from Friday to Saturday, a sign of good word-of-mouth. That means it's likely the picture won't drop off quickly at the box office in the weeks to come.
Marvel, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., financed "Iron Man 2" at a cost of about $170 million. Worldwide marketing and print costs are estimated at $150 million. Paramount Pictures is distributing the film for a fee of 8% of its revenue.
"Babies" was the only other movie to open nationwide and took in $1.58 million, according to an estimate from distributor Focus Features, a pretty good start for a documentary playing at only 534 theaters, compared with 4,380 for "Iron Man 2."
Ticket sales for the reboot of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," the No. 1 movie last weekend, plummeted 72% to $9.2 million.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: A scene from "Iron Man 2." Credit: Industrial Lights and Magic / Marvel Entertainment