"Iron Man" poised to blast box office into summer
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood studios are counting on actor Robert Downey Jr. and his big-screen incarnation as "Iron Man" to blast them out of a box office slump as the lucrative summer movie season opens this weekend.
The latest Marvel comics adventure is expected to gross $60 million to $80 million or more during its initial Friday-through-Sunday run in North American theaters, experts said, buoyed by heavy promotion and largely favorable reviews.
That would fall far short of the $151 million all-time record opening that "Spider-Man 3" notched during the same weekend last year, thanks to the frenzy surrounding a highly anticipated sequel to an established blockbuster franchise.
The first "Spider-Man" film still holds the record for biggest domestic opening by a non-sequel movie -- $114.8 million in the first weekend of May 2002.
"Iron Man" will probably rank more on par with yet another Marvel superhero drama, "X2: X-Men United," which opened the first weekend of May 2003 with about $85 million in receipts.
While unlikely to quite match Spidey's box-office clout, "Iron Man" is no lightweight.
It cost a reported $150 million to make, sports plenty of nifty special effects, and stars Downey as a wealthy weapons executive and playboy wrestling with a mid-life crisis as he invents a powerful high-tech suit of armor to fight bad guys.
The film marks a key turning point in Downey's once-clouded career -- his first lead role in a high-profile, big-studio picture since his 1997 incarceration for violating probation on drunken driving and drug possession charges. Continued...