'Iron Man 3' Records Italy's Biggest-Ever Opening Weekend in April

 Marvel Entertainment

ROME – With declining ticket sales, and falling investments in production, Italy’s beleaguered cinema sector needed help. Sounds like a job for Iron Man.

Iron Man 3, the latest in the franchise starring Robert Downey Jr. as the metal-clad super hero grossed €8.6 million ($11.3 million) in its Italian debut this weekend. That set a record for the most successful April opening ever in Italy.

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It is also the biggest opening weekend for a film so far this year in the Bel Paese, which after a strong start to the year now appears to be at risk to see overall cinema ticket sales drop for the third consecutive year.

The film opened on 862 screens, a near record, and it opened on Wednesday in Italy rather than Thursday, due to a national holiday.

Iron Man 3, which will open in the U.S. May 3, has racked up strong box office receipts across most of the foreign territories its earned nearly $200 million in opening weekend international sales, beating the $185 million in international sales from the opening weekend of The Avengers -- and it hasn’t even opened in China yet.

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The strong results are just what the ailing Italian cinema sector needed, where vendors sold around 10 million fewer tickets than in the previous year in both 2012 and 2011. Ticket sales were stronger than in the year-ago period in February and March, but a slowdown since then and a relative lack of big films heading into the traditionally slow summer months has raised the possibility the sector could contract for the third consecutive year.

Meanwhile, cutbacks from the sector's biggest producers, Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI, have seen spending on new productions contract by a fourth since 2008.

Italy has taken several steps to help the sector, including moving opening nights for new films back to Thursday and promotions selling educed-price tickets to young viewers. But the initiatives have so far had a limited effect.

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