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Can 'Iron Man 2' beat 'The Dark Knight'?

April 6, 2010 |  3:56 pm

Exactly one month from Wednesday, Tony Stark, Pepper Potts and the other personalities of "Iron Man" will return to make witty mayhem in the superhero sequel.

And exactly three days after that, we could have a new domestic box-office record.

Stark himself, never lacking in suave self-confidence, probably wouldn't make such a bold boast. But it's entirely feasible.

According to just-released tracking surveys, director Jon Favreau's second installment in the Marvel franchise is showing astonishing levels of interest and awareness well ahead of its three-day opening next month. There are enough statistical indications to think that the first-weekend gross could top the $158.4-million haul for "Dark Knight", the current record-holder for the biggest (non inflation-adjusted) opening weekend and the gold standard for movie debuts. 

2Christopher Nolan's Batman sequel grossed that amount when it opened over a three-day weekend in July 2008. The same spring/summer period brought the release of "Iron Man." The character was new to mainstream audiences, star Robert Downey Jr. had yet to engineer his Hollywood comeback and Favreau was riding a cold streak ("Zathura: A Space Adventure," anyone?). The movie still opened to an impressive $98 million, and went on to gross more than $318 million domestically.

This year's sequel opening on May 7 should pulverize that $98 million figure. Thanks in part to Downey, the Paramount-distributed film is drawing as much (strong) interest among women over 30 as it is among women in their 20s, the tracking surveys show. Males in their teens and 20s are so keen on the film they may as well be dressing up in an iron suit. About the only people who aren't fully sold are teen girls, but there are signs of robustness there too.

All this doesn't even count the intangibles. The movie generated a titanic reception at last summer's Comic-Con International in San Diego, the kind that happens only once every few years, if that. The "Iron Man 2" trailers have practically shut down YouTube. And according to one rival studio, "Iron Man" is now among the most-liked franchises in Hollywood, right up there with "Spider-Man." (It also doesn't hurt that ticket prices have inched upward in the past two years, although the 2-D "Iron Man 2" likely won't touch the domestic record of $742.5 million set by last year's 3-D "Avatar.")

Of course, shattering a box-office record isn't the same as making a creative breakthrough. "Dark Knight" was a singular cultural phenomenon, adored by critics, loved by the public and regarded in the fan universe as the great example of superhero movies, the Giselle Bündchen of the form. Whether "Iron Man 2" will be similarly embraced remains to be seen. From the advance material, we're expecting more humor than we got in the Batman follow-up but not necessarily the same level of grit or complexity.

Still, a combination of pop-culture awareness, hugely appealing (and promotion-minded) actors and a smartly waged marketing campaign could send "Iron Man 2" on the path to a record. That is, for now -- "Batman 3," after all, is currently in development. And given the tendency of superhero sequels to expand audiences as they go, that movie could eventually land with even more box-office force. Your move, Nolan.

--Steven Zeitchik

Follow me on Twitter.

Photo of Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man 2": Francois Duhamel / Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures

Photo of Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight": Warner Bros.

Comments () | Archives (29)

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the Giselle Bündchen of the form?!?

I don't doubt that Iron Man will beat Dark Knight.The cast and director are amazing.And..hmm..I guess I'm one of the teen girls sold

I'm a 19 year old girl and LOVED Iron Man. Between being a Marvel Comics movie and starring *swoon* Robert Downey Jr, it's on the top of my list. Def going to see Iron Man 2 at the midnight showing.

'It's your move, Nolan.' Come on. B. Singer gave us X1 & X2, films which were taken serious on their own merits and which did in fact elevate the expectations of moviegoers around the world, not just comic book fans. Nolan however put those expectations, loaded them on a rocket and blasted them off to Mars. I really enjoyed Iron Man and am looking forward to the sequel. However, 'we're expecting more humor than we got in the Batman follow-up but not necessarily the same level of grit or complexity', is absolutely right. Aside from them being comic book movie there is no real comparison. Iron Man is an Action-Comedy (albeit a darn good one), while Dark Knight is a Epic Drama.

I read this article immediately because I'm a huge fan of Iron Man.. One thing I wasn't so fond of was when you said the only area that isn't completely sold on liking Robert Downey Jr. are teenage girls.. I know you said there's some robustness there but still.. I'm in love with him (haha he's my "older" celebrity crush) and I know tons of other teenage girls around my age that love him too!! Haha so give us teenaged girls some credit!! We love Robert Downey Jr.!!!!

I don't think it will be able to beat TDK, but it'll do incredibly well. And I am definitely one of the teen girls sold. Give me a a superhero movie and RDJ and I'm there.

I don't think IM2 will have the same grit or complexity as The Dark Knight, but IM was never really about that. IM2 will probably have more "mass appeal" than TDK simply because it won't be as gritty or complex. I personally loved IM because it wasn't as emotionally taxing to see as TDK but it did not lose any of its wit or humor; I hope Mr. Favreau still maintains that tone in IM2.

I agree with everything Natalie and Mitchie said!! It will most likely beat the Dark Night.. like them, I am sold on Robert Downey Jr. We love him<3

I find Iron Man 2's plot line to be quite timely and deep. How much privatization is too much? How much responsibility do we have to those we exploit or to those who are harmed by the products we provide? Given our "military/industrial complex," I think we would be well served to explore these questions--and in light of wikileaks, it's none too soon.

The Estimated Earnings The Iron Man 2 Movie Will Gross In It's First Day

With Iron Man 2 playing at almost every theatre in the nation as well as on hundreds of IMAX screens with inflated ticket prices, the film should easily meet or surpass the DK opening. Furthermore, it may be the first film to get near or best $200M.

My 17 year old and her girlfriends are all planning to go and they just might let their guys sit with them.

I just loooove RDJ. He is my favourite actor. I will definately watch Iron Man 2 on its release day itself.

IM2 won't even come close to TDK. The Heath Ledger death propelled public curiosity and demand to a height that nobody involved with TDK could have anticipated.

The only reason TDK did so well was because Batman Begins assured fans that Chris Nolan wasn't making a crap movie and Heath Ledger died right before it was released.

Iron Man 2 will do well, but unless something crazy happens outside of the film to add fuel to the fire... it will not beat TDK.

I don't think it will beat Dark Knight's record, but I do think it will open huge: $140 mil on its way to a $400 mil total.

I don't think it will beat Dark Knight's record, but I do think it will open huge: $140 mil on its way to a $400 mil total.

"your move Nolan." lol

I didn't think Iron Man was anything but your ordinary superhero film, albeit, more well made. Other than that, RDJ is going to have to die between now and the day the movie is released if he wants the same box office as TDK.

No, no chance. I'm guessing maximum 400M, and that's a highly optimistic number. Probably somewhere around 300-340M. I'm talking domestic, of course. International - 500-700M.

Looking forward to the IronM sequel but i doubt it will beat DK crtically and commercially
It might gross more than D Knight but complex plots and epic drama is what makes movies incredible to me and a lot of critics
That movie was a straight classic and for Iron man to even come close it has to make a huge leap in quality
The first was decent- good not great
The second will be an improvement but not as dazzling as a Spider-man 2 or Dark Knight
But only time will truly tell

The Dark Knight is stand alone unique, and just spectacular as a super hero film. Iron Man is a great film, but much more conventional.

People who track these things are forgetting about all the people who went to see DK just because of the hype, which included my group. So the next DK had better generate just as much hype, because while it was a good movie to us it was just that, a good movie, that was 20 minutes too long with a sort of lame ending twist - was worth seeing for Ledger but he was only on screen total of 20 minutes and we don't see movies because someone passed away - how weird.
We didn't care if it was more "gritty", lots of movies are "gritty". Iron Man was pretty much of an unknown and then we go and have a fantastic time, so that's the sequel we will DEFINITELY be checking out in a theater. Time will tell if the next DK falls into the "wait for it on DVD" file - even if it's "good" it may not be something to see at expensive theater prices.

I liked Zathura. My kids love Zathura. Stop bagging on Zathura!

I love both film series and their gadgets (Batman has almost turned into Iron man at this point).

Just wanted to let you know about a new website:


It has easy and elaborate projects that show how to make Super Hero gear.


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