The first Iron Man blasted off on the same weekend in May 2008, raking in $98.6 million on approximately 8,700 screens at 4,105 theaters (or $102.1 million including its Thursday night previews). That incredible beginning seemed more impressive in light of the Iron Man character being perceived as not in the same popularity league as Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and X-Men at the time. Iron Man went on to hold well for a comic-book movie, ending its run with $318.4 million and ranking as the No. 2 movie of 2008.
Early May has been one of the most conducive timeframes of the year for enormous opening weekends. With its $114.8 million launch back in 2002, the first Spider-Man shattered the opening weekend record and became the first movie to gross more than $100 million in three days. In 2007, Spider-Man 3 broke the opening weekend record again with its $151.1 million launch. Other massive starts have been posted by The Mummy Returns in 2001, X2: X-Men United in 2003 and, of course, the first Iron Man.
Thus far, the marketing for Iron Man 2 has relied mostly on people's fondness of the first movie, showing glimpses that recall Iron Man's charms, namely shots of Robert Downey, Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark and more cool peaks at his robot suits. Audience good will has helped carry second movies beyond their predecessors in the past, including The Dark Knight, The Matrix Reloaded and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. However, those pictures' marketing campaigns didn't seem to rest on their laurels as much as Iron Man 2's. For instance, a new, driving storyline has not been pushed in ads, hearkening one of the features the first movie lacked: a strong villain. Typically, superhero movies flourish not just on their protagonists, but on their antagonists as well. The first Batman and The Dark Knight are prime examples of this.
The first Iron Man was a broadly appealing success, not just a fanboy affair. But that means the new movie may lack the fanboy fervor to surpass The Dark Knight's opening weekend record of $158.4 million. This has been exhibited in Iron Man 2's midnight opening, which was downplayed by its distributor Paramount Pictures. The picture is estimated to have made a potent $7.5 million at around 2,700 sites, which was nowhere near all time midnight champs The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($26.3 million), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($22.2 million), The Dark Knight ($18.5 million), Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ($16.9 million) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($16 million). It was also less than Spider-Man 3 (around $10 million), but it was much bigger than the first Iron Man at the same point as well as Avatar ($3.5 million).
Included in Iron Man 2's theater count are 181 sites showing the picture in IMAX, replacing How to Train Your Dragon (without IMAX, the location count would be 4,369 as 170 of those IMAX presentations are in theaters with regular showings as well).