SATURDAY AM: This is why Hollywood keeps making movies from comic books. Now it’s official: Marvel’s Iron Man opened with $38.5 million at Thursday’s and Friday’s box office for what will be $95 million in total domestic gross for the full 3 1/2 day release (including Thursday night’s $5 million haul from advance screenings in 2,500 theaters, plus Friday-Saturday-and-Sunday’s monster take in 4,105 venues).

The PG-13 blockbuster distributed by Paramount logged in No. 1 as the best 2008 film opening, but also should finish among the Top 2 or Top 3 summer movies of the year as it kicks off the all-important May through August popcorn season. The $140 mil production self-financed by Marvel also broke the record for the second biggest non-sequel opening of all time behind only Spider-Man 1. “Especially when we’ve had a horrid March and April, this shows people are ready to go to the movies,” an insider says. I understand the Cinemascore was an A, and an A-plus with younger groups: 18 to 24, and under 25. The movie like most comic book pics understandably skewed more male: I just saw the Cinemascore figures, and that gender gap was wide Friday night: 71% male-29% female filmgoers. (Interestingly, Iron Man insiders cite internal figures claiming it was 60%-40% “which bodes well for female audiences finding the movie and loving it.”)

The other major movie opening, Sony’s Made Of Honor starring Patrick Dempsey, did respectably considering all the competition: I’m told it opened to $5.6M Friday from 2,729 venues for what should be a $16M FSS.

FRIDAY 9 PM UPDATE: Sources just told me that Marvel’s Iron Man will make $30-plus million for Friday’s domestic box office gross and should have an $80+ million North American weekend. (One rival studio thinks the pic did $32M Friday and will earn high $80sM, if not $90M, for the 3-day FSS.) Distributor Paramount is milking this monster hit for all it’s worth: it has attached the new trailer for its Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull to the showings of Iron Man.

OVERSEAS UPDATE: Sources tell me that, in over 47 international territories, Iron Man made $30 million total over Wednesday and Thursday. This does not include the UK, where Iron Man debuts today, or Japan, where it opens in September.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Thursday night’s take from advance screenings at about 2,500 theaters for Marvel’s Iron Man was a very big $5 million, sources tell me. And impressively that number was reached with almost no advance specific marketing at all to the preshows. The studio’s 3-day weekend estimate when the pic expands to 4,105 venues is now $65M-70M, or $75M for the 3 1/2 days. This makes Iron Man and its unconventional leading man Robert Downey Jr (which may be one secret to the film’s success) the second biggest Marvel comic book character in a movie behind only Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. Iron Man will also be posting the biggest movie opening of 2008 as it kicks off the all-important summer popcorn season.

My main story will be updated all weekend:

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

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