‘Iron Man 2’ off to strong start in U.S.

Advance online ticket sales are boffo

After a boffo international rollout last weekend, “Iron Man 2” is primed to kick off a socko summer Stateside.

The franchise sequel opened to $100.2 million in 53 overseas markets, and with a record-setting domestic count totaling 4,380 locations, Paramount and Marvel Entertainment have poised the film for a red-hot domestic bow.

Focus Features’ “Babies” docu is well-positioned Mother’s Day weekend at 534 playdates, while Sony Pictures Classics opens Rodrigo Garcia’s “Mother and Child” at four locations in New York and L.A.

Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight” holds the current benchmark as the highest-grossing three-day opener with $158.4 million on its July 2008 launch. While some insiders say “Iron 2” could come close to the record, most studio observers are expecting pic to open in the $125 million-$135 million range.

Either way, “Iron 2” is already off to a hefty start.

Par opened the pic at midnight screenings nationwide, with sold-out shows in New York’s AMC Loews Lincoln Square and L.A.’s Universal City Walk. Online ticketing service Fandango reported that “Iron 2” repped 92% of its daily ticket sales through Thursday; ducats went on sale two weeks ago.

Large-screen exhib Imax also reported strong advance ticket sa les, repping a total 182 domestic locations.

The much-anticipated sequel is on track to outpace its predecessor’s opening take, which bowed to the tune of $102.1 million the same weekend in 2008. The original went on to cume $318.4 million domestically for a worldwide haul of $566.1 million.

As the first summer tentpole of the year, “Iron 2” should fall in between last year’s summer opener, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” with $85.1 million in its preem weekend and 2007’s Sony’s “Spider-Man 3” with $151.1 million.,

“Iron 2” picks up six months after the end of the first film, following character Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as he faces continued pressure from the government to reveal the technology of his Iron Man armor. Pic reunites Downey with director Jon Favreau and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow as secretary Pepper Potts, along with franchise newcomers Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson.

The frame’s holdovers will have to play second fiddle to “Iron 2” as the pic is expected to lure all demos, not just fanboys.

Warner’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” should outrank most holdovers, entering its soph sesh after a $32.9 million launch, followed by Par and DreamWorks Animations’ 3D toon “How to Train Your Dragon.”

Last weekend, “Dragon” dropped approximately 30% for a take of $10.6 million in its sixth frame, cuming $193.9 million as of May 5. Toon has gone relatively unchallenged on the kid front since its bow March 26.

With “Iron Man 2” tracking best among male auds, several limited releases will hope to benefit from femme counter-programming this Mother’s Day.

Summit will sneak “Letters to Juliet” between 3 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Sneaks will screen at 882 locations in place of either Summit’s holdovers “Furry Vengeance” or “The Ghost Writer.” Distrib opens the pic, starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave, next week.

Sony Classics’ “Mother and Child” tells the story of three women: a mother and the daughter she gave up for adoption, as well as a young woman looking to adopt a child of her own. Annette Bening and Naomi Watts topline as the mother-daughter duo, with Kerry Washington as the woman who wants to adopt.

Overseas, Par continues its expansive rollout of “Iron 2” in major territories including China and Germany. The Imax component will make up an additional 68 overseas locations this weekend.

The film’s early international rollout capitalized on last week’s May Day holiday overseas. The launch also added two weeks of playability before Universal’s debut of the Ridley Scott-directed “Robin Hood.”

International 3D holdovers, such as Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” and Warner’s “Clash of the Titans” played best against “Iron 2.” Last weekend, “Alice” grossed $22.5 million, followed by “Clash’s” $18.8 million take. “Clash” has cumed $540.5 million worldwide, while “Alice should surpass $1 billion worldwide this weekend.

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