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SUNDAY AM: Here are the official blockbuster numbers — Paramount Pictures release of Marvel Studios’ Iron Man, in 4,105 theaters, made an estimated $35,125,000 on Friday 5/2, an estimated $37,500,000 on Saturday 5/3, for an estimated 3-day weekend box office of $100,750,000. Advance screenings in select locations, about 2,500 venues, from 8:00 PM to midnight on Thursday 5/1 contributed an additional $3,500,000. With this addition, the total estimated box office is $104,250,000. The estimated international box office for the weekend is $96,750,000 from 57 territories. The total combined estimated global box office for Marvel Studios’ Iron Man is $201,000,000.

“It beat Will Smith and Jesus!” gushed a Paramount insider referring to the openings of I Am Legend and The Passion Of The Christ. “It’s just mind blowing. Internally, some people were going into high 80sM and low 90sM but people were laughing at them. We had our own box office poll and maybe one person thought $100M.” The monster numbers now make Iron Man the second biggest 3-day release for a non-sequel in the history of Hollywood, behind only Sony’s first Spider-Man. It’s also the No. 10 movie opening weekend and the No. 4 superhero movie weekend of all time. The $140 million production self-financed by Marvel was also distributor Paramount’s biggest live action opening of all time. I understand that, at first, Paramount thought Thursday’s advance screenings generated $5 million, but then discovered that $1.7 million ended up being for 12:01 AM shows so that money went towards Friday gross.

The other major movie opening, Sony’s Made Of Honor starring Patrick Dempsey, did respectably for No. 2: it opened to $5.6M Friday and $6M Saturday from 2,729 venues for a $15.5M weekend. Audiences were skewed female (68%) and older (62% were ages 25+). “Given the competition with Iron Man, we are very pleased with the results of our counter programming,” a Sony Pictures spokesman said. ”The movie was produced for under $40 million and is another in a string of moderately-budgeted, commercial films that will perform well for the studio.”

The rest of the Top 10:
No. 3Baby Mama/Universal, $10.3M weekend, $33.2M cume
No. 4Forgetting Sarah Marshall/Universal, $6.1M weekend, $44.8M cume
No. 5Harold & Kumar Guantanamo Bay/Warner, $6M weekend, $25.2M cume
No. 6The Forbidden Kingdom/Lionsgate, $4.2M weekend, $45.1M cume
No. 7Nim’s Island/Fox, $2.7M weekend, $42.5M cume
No. 8Prom Night/Sony, $2.5M weekend, $41.4M cume
No. 921/Sony, $2.1M weekend, $79M cume
No. 1088 Minutes/Sony, $1.6M weekend, $15.4M cume

SATURDAY PM: An insider just told me that Marvel’s Iron Man has made at least $100 million for the 3 1/2 days of its opening release in North America. “We’re having a fantastic Saturday,” a source within distributor Paramount relays. “Most movies in this genre fall Friday to Saturday. Not this one!!!” The total wildly exceeded what Marvel and Paramount thought would be the comic book movie’s realistic take from 4,105 theaters during its debut. I’m told the PG-13 action pic also has taken in a monster $50 million overseas from nearly 50 foreign territories.

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 shoul 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 million production self-financed by Marvel also broke the record for the second biggest non-sequel opening of all time behind only Spider-Man 1. (With its unconventional leading man Robert Downey Jr — which may be one secret to the film’s success — and director (Elf) Jon Favreau, the pic is the second biggest Marvel comic book movie character behind only Sony’s Spider-Man franchise.) “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 ages 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.”) According to Rotten Tomatoes, Iron Man is the best reviewed wide release so far this year — 95% positive reviews – and the best reviewed comic book movie in the website’s (albeit brief) history. Meanwhile, 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: Iron Man opened overseas as early as April 30th. I’m told that, in over 47 international territories, the pic 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.

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: Sources just told me that Marvel’s Iron Man will make $30-plus million from 4,105 theaters 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 definitely will earn high $80sM if not $90M for the 3-day weekend.) Meanwhile, Thursday night’s take from advance screenings in about 2,500 theaters was a very big $5 million, sources tell me. And impressively that number was reached with almost no specific marketing at all to the preshows. Friday’s total and new weekend projection far exceeded what the studio and distributor hoped (its 3-day FSS estimate was $65M-70M, or $75M for the 3 1/2 days). Iron Man will also mark the biggest movie opening of 2008 as it kicks off the all-important summer popcorn season.

WEEKEND PREDICTION: Latest projections by my box office gurus call for Iron Man to debut with a monster $75 million to $85 million 3-day weekend. That will make it the second best Marvel comic book character opening, second only to Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. According to Rotten Tomatoes, as of noon today, Marvel’s Iron Man is the best reviewed wide release so far this year — 95% positive reviews – and the best reviewed comic book movie in the website’s (albeit brief) history. Nice way to kick off the summer popcorn season and great validation for Marvel’s decision to self-finance its productions. (I’m told Iron Man came in at a cost of around $140M.) Tonight’s showings begin around 8 PM in about 2,500 locations, then the pic rolls out super-sized to 4,105 theaters on Friday through Sunday. The distributor Paramount is still sticking with its $65M-$70M projected opening, “and anything over $70M is a home run.”

“It’s already tracking better than The Hulk which opened to $62 mil,” one rival marketing maven tells me. So let’s look at the other numbers for top Marvel character non-sequel openings: Spider-Man broke the bank with $115M because it was one of the best known in the stable. Fantastic Four to $56M. X-Men to $54M, GhostRider to $52M (4-day wkd) and Daredevil to $45M (4-day wkd). So Iron Man‘s tracking would give it the second best Marvel character opening of all — and the star Robert Downey Jr’s biggest ever. There’s only one asterisk: Will women turn out in big numbers? “It’s getting better, but it’s still weak with women,” a source at Paramount, the distributor, acknowledges to me. Said a rival studio’s box office guru: “It’s the one weak spot. If Iron Man can get any traction with females, then the sky’s the limit. It’s not going to be a Spider-Man. But it could be a significant title nevertheless, and one of this summer’s Top 4 grossing pics. If it can’t get female traction, then its total is going to be low $200 million.” My box office gurus say Sony’s romantic comedy Made Of Honor could siphon off women from Iron Man and fetch $16M to $20M from 2,729 venues.

See my previous:

  1. ‘Iron Man’: It’s Still Weak With Women…
  2. UPDATE: ‘Iron Man’ Estimates Upped
  3. TRACKING: That’s ‘Iron Man’ Crazy Talk
For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.