'Iron Man' is a box-office marvel

The Associated Press

"Iron Man" was pure gold at the box office.

The Marvel Comics adaptation, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the guy in the metal suit, hauled in $100.7 million during its opening weekend and $104.2 million since debuting Thursday night, the second-best premiere ever for a non-sequel, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The film also scored overseas with $96.7 million in 57 countries where it began opening Wednesday, putting its worldwide total at $201 million.

The movie, distributed by Paramount Pictures, is the first release by Marvel Studios, which has begun financing its own productions after such studio-backed hits as the "Spider-Man," "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" flicks.

"We could not have hoped for a better way for Marvel Studios to blast off," said David Maisel, chairman of the unit, a division of Marvel Entertainment, which stands to pull in a greater share of box-office receipts and merchandising money by financing movies itself.

Premiering in second place with $15.5 million was Sony Pictures' romantic comedy "Made of Honor," starring "Grey's Anatomy" heartthrob Patrick Dempsey as a man who tries to woo his best pal after she asks him to be maid of honor at her wedding.

"Iron Man," which won rave reviews from many critics, features Downey as billionaire arms designer Tony Stark, a boozy womanizer who builds a high-tech suit and becomes a superhero, mending his ways after he's taken captive and sees firsthand the devastation his weapons cause.

The film is directed by Jon Favreau and also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard.

Despite the huge "Iron Man" opening, Hollywood's overall business was down compared with the same weekend last year, when "Spider-Man 3" had a record launch of $151.1 million.

The top 12 movies took in $154.1 million, off 15% from a year ago.

"Nonetheless, 'Iron Man' did better than expected," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media by Numbers. "This is certainly the shot in the arm the marketplace has needed."

Movie attendance this year is running 6% behind that of 2007, so the arrival of "Iron Man" may jump-start the box office as the summer season begins.

"Iron Man" was the 10th-biggest opening of all time and the fourth biggest for a superhero movie.

Among non-sequels, it came in behind only the first "Spider-Man," which premiered with $114.8 million.

The next Marvel production arrives in June with "The Incredible Hulk," distributed by Universal Pictures and starring Edward Norton.

Among returning films, the Tina Fey comedy "Baby Mama" dropped to third place from first with $10.3 million. The film from General Electric Co.'s Universal has taken in $32.3 million since it opened April 25. Fey portrays a high-strung businesswoman who hires an uninhibited underachiever played by Amy Poehler to carry her child.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was fourth, taking in $6.13 million in ticket sales. The film reunites producer Judd Apatow with Jason Segel from "Knocked Up." Segel stars as a man who goes on vacation after being rejected by his longtime lover, only to find her at the same resort with her new boyfriend.

"Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," from Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. studio, dropped to fifth place from second with $6.02 million in receipts.

Rounding out the top 10 were the martial-arts fantasy "The Forbidden Kingdom," starring Jackie Chan, from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. in sixth with $4.2 million; "Nim's Island" with $2.75 million to take seventh place for News Corp.; Sony's horror film "Prom Night" at $2.5 million for eighth; "21," a gambling thriller from Sony, in ninth with $2.1 million; and the Al Pacino thriller "88 Minutes" from Sony with $1.6 million to take 10th place.

In limited release, David Mamet's martial-arts drama "Redbelt" opened solidly with $68,646 in six theaters. Released by Sony Pictures Classics, "Redbelt" stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as an honorable instructor caught up in corruption in the world of mixed martial-arts competitions.

Paramount Vantage's "Son of Rambow," a comic tale of two British boys making their own "Rambo" movie, also opened well with $52,549 in five theaters.

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