The superhero sequel Iron Man 3 opened with $195.3m (£125.6m) at the global box office this weekend, placing the film on course to surpass the $1.5m haul secured by last year's highest-grossing movie, The Avengers.
The total is all the more impressive because the $200m Marvel Studios film, which stars Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Kingsley, has not yet opened in the US. It is by far the largest opening of any film of 2013 so far, ahead of Oz the Great and Powerful's $149m in March.
Last year's The Avengers, to which Iron Man 3 is a pseudo-sequel, eventually pulled in the third-highest box office haul of all time behind James Cameron's Titanic and Avatar. The previous Iron Man film, Iron Man 2, managed only $623.9m in 2010, so the spectacular success of Joss Whedon's ensemble superhero film has clearly boosted output dramatically for Marvel's other fare.
Iron Man 3 opened in the UK on Thursday, where it immediately flew to No 1 at the box office with a $21.5m opening. It broke all-time opening weekend records in Argentina, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. Iron Man 3 has also yet to open in China, where it is expected to do well thanks to the presence of a special Chinese cut featuring local actors and scenes, and Russia. It will open in the US on Friday.
Shane Black's film sees Downey Jr's Tony Stark battered by an attack from mysterious villain The Mandarin (Kingsley) which threatens his life, home and loved ones. It is the fourth film to feature Downey Jr's Iron Man released by Disney-owned Marvel, which will also release Thor sequel The Dark World in cinemas this year. The latter film is due in UK cinemas on 29 October, and US multiplexes on 8 November.
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image: © Vincent Wei