The summer spectacle has begun.
Kicking off the season with pedal to the metal, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man 3 made the record books as it opened to $175.3 million in North America, the No. 2 debut of all time behind fellow Marvel pic The Avengers ($207.4 million), also starring Downey as Iron Man. The movie received a glowing A CinemaScore, fueling word of mouth.
Overseas, the Disney and Marvel threequel grossed $175.9 million in its second weekend, putting the 3D movie's worldwide total at $680.1. Internationally, Iron Man 3 - the first title in the franchise to be released in 3D -- is matching Avengers overseas, where 3D remains a big draw. China leads with a whopping $63.5 million.
Iron Man 3 -- which has a strong shot of joining an elite club of films ultimately grossing $1 billion or more -- is a sizeable victory for Marvel and parent company Disney, giving them the top two slots on the list of all-time North American openings as Iron Man 3 beat out the final Harry Potter pic ($169.2 million). Box office observers say that threequel is playing more like a sequel to Avengers than to Iron Man 2, which debuted to $128.1 million on the same weekend in 2010.
Helmed by franchise newcomer Shane Black, Iron Man 3 shattered a number of other records in its worldwide assault, including scoring the top-grossing Saturday of all time in North America ($62.2 million) save only for Avengers ($69.6 million).
The film sees the return of Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's girlfriend Pepper Potts and Don Cheadle as James Rhodes. Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall join the superhero series as characters threatening the stressed-out Stark.