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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Iron Man 2" led the worldwide box office for a second weekend, boosted by a $133.6 million debut in North America that ranks as the fifth-biggest opening of all time, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.
The sequel to the hit 2008 superhero movie, which established veteran actor Robert Downey Jr. as a box office force, got an early start in most countries last weekend to maximize exposure before the World Cup soccer tournament kicks off in South Africa on June 11.
Its early international total raced to $194 million from 61 markets after a $57.2 million weekend. Paramount Pictures, which is distributing the film for Walt Disney Co-owned producer Marvel Studios, said the total is running about 25 percent ahead of the first film when measured in local-currency terms. Including the United States and Canada, the worldwide haul for "Iron Man 2" stands at $327.6 million.
Top markets where the film remained at No. 1 included Britain with $23 million to date, Korea ($22 million), Australia ($15 million) and France ($14 million).
In addition to North America, the film also opened this weekend in China with $7.3 million. Japan is the only major market where "Iron Man 2" is not yet playing and it will open there in three weeks.
While the North American opening for "Iron Man 2" fell within industry forecasts, some pundits had thought it might snatch the $158 million opening crown from the 2008 Batman sequel "The Dark Knight."
But Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore said the "Iron Man" franchise does not have the same fan base or history as the "Batman" or "Spider-Man" films, and that it was an "amazing accomplishment" merely to be grouped with those veterans.
The first film opened to $99 million in North America, and ended up with $318 million. Including the international markets, the worldwide tally was $585 million.
The sequel, which reunites Downey with director Jon Favreau, cost between $170 million and $180 million to make. Downey plays Tony Stark, a playboy weapons mogul who moonlights as an airborne superhero. Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson joined the cast of the new film. While critics were virtually unanimous in their approval of the first film, they were slightly less enthralled by the sequel.
"Iron Man 2" is the first big Marvel superhero film to open since Disney bought the comic-book studio last year. The film already was in post-production and most of the marketing campaign mapped out when the deal was done. A third film will come out sometime after 2012, when Downey will reprise his role in Marvel's superhero ensemble "Avengers," said Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Bill Trott