'Iron Man' still flying high

LONDON — “Speed Racer” failed to get off the grid in Europe, where “Iron Man” stood steely strong in its soph sesh and sprightly counterprogrammer “What Happens in Vegas” opened with a definite spring in its step.

In the U.K., Paramount’s “Iron Man” held top spot despite dropping 64% in its second weekend. The seemingly large drop-off is slightly misleading given opening Sunday May 4 biz was significantly swelled by the Monday May 5 public holiday.

The Marvel comicbook superhero actioner took $3.9 million at 499 locations this weekend, according to Rentrak, pushing the cume to $20.1 million. The “Iron Man” location average of $7,823 was also a chart best.

Fox’s female-skewed offering “What Happens in Vegas” took second spot with a decent $2.5 million at 398.

Outside the top two, most pics really struggled for auds in a sweltering weekend that saw standing room only at some British beaches.

Overall trade was further depressed by the hype surrounding the final weekend of the English soccer Premier League. Televised final day crunch clashes kept sports fans glued to the tube on Sunday afternoon.

“Speed Racer” hit the skids badly in its U.K. bow, taking just $715,061 at 442 locations via Warner Bros. Lame opening result placed “Racer” fourth — and off the podium — with a $1,618 average.

As predicted by most bookers, Neil Marshall’s local horror “Doomsday” opened only modestly. Pic placed sixth with $614,904 at 257 via Universal.

All holdovers in the top 20 plummeted by more than 60% other than Optimum Releasing’s upscale animated pic “Persepolis,” which slid 57% in its third frame for a $1 million cume.

In Italy, “Speed Racer” bombed big time, bowing at a rock bottom $386,000 from 396, while “Iron Man” proved its mettle and easily held on to numero uno.

Latest Wachowski brothers’ pic was punished by a mix of bad buzz, scorching sunshine, and the penultimate round in the country’s closely fought Serie A soccer tourney. Warner Bros. took in a mere $978,000 screen average in Italy, with “Speed” opening at number four.

“Iron Man” dropped 50% in its second frame for a solid enough $1.6 million off 502 and a $7.8 million two-week cume, including previews.

But the Italo frame’s real winner was Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher romancer “What Happens in Vegas,” which bowed at number two with 1.3 million from 295 via Fox for the flat frame’s highest per-screen average — $4,640.

Meanwhile, local boxing biopic “Carnera — The Walking Mountain” took the Italo frame’s biggest beating, bowing at a bruising $213,000 from 244 via Medusa. “Carnera” screen average was $873.

In the arthouse arena, Sergei Bodrov’s Gengis Khan biopic “Mongol,” bowed decently, considering the climate, with $350,000 from 135 via BIM Distribuzione. That was not the case with Gallic helmer Emmanuel Mouret’s romancer “Shall We Kiss?,” which drew a cold $43,000 from 36 via Officine Ubu.

In Spain, exhibbers and empty reservoirs got some much needed rain. But a lack of lots of punchy openers meant the impact on flagging local B.O. was not massive.

Top opener by a stretch was Fox’s “What Happens in Vegas,” which made a brilliant $3.7 million, registering a $9,039 copy average.

Critics’ reaction was tepid.

“The appeal of duo Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher and precedent of ‘There’s Something About Mary’ worked as a nice formula,” declared a more-than-satisfied booker.

“Fox’s romcom will have long legs,” forecast a second booker.

Sony’s “Iron Man” dipped a respectable 40% to place second in its soph sesh. Cume now stands at $8.5 million.

As elsewhere, “Speed Racer” failed to get out of the blocks in Spain. Pic bagged $851,954 off 430. “It really crashed out,” said an exhibber. “I didn’t expect great results, but nor such bad figures,” pointed out another exhibber. “I am afraid that the word of mouth isn’t going to be a great help,” added a distribber.

As for holdovers, “88 Minutes” dipped just 2% in its second frame for a $1.9 million running cume. Local laffer “Chef’s Special” also fell only 2% (in fifth frame) for a succulent $5.9 million cume. Sony’s gambling thriller “21” also held well in its fifth session, sliding 15% for a $5.9 million cume.

Additional reporting by Emilio Mayorga (Spain) and Nick Vivarelli (Italy).

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