'Iron Man 2' rakes in $7.5 mil on early Friday

More than 2,500 locations screened movie at 12:01 a.m.

"Iron Man 2" rocketed into domestic multiplexes with an estimated $7.5 million from its 12:01 a.m. Friday performances.

More than 2,500 locations programmed the comics-inspired action at the witching hour, as the Marvel Studios-produced sequel launched its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada and kicked off the industry's all-important summer boxoffice season. For the rest of the weekend, "Iron Man 2" will play in more than 4,000 domestic theaters.

The Paramount-distributed pic -- in which Jon Favreau again directed topliner Robert Downey Jr. and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow -- is widely expected to ring up $140 million or more through Sunday. Warner Bros.' Batman actioner "The Dark Knight" posted the biggest domestic opening with its $158.4 million debut in July 2008.

Par is handling "Iron Man 2" as it also distributed the 2008 franchise starter. But the sequel represents the first Marvel title hitting multiplexes since Disney bought Marvel last year.

Hundreds of venues sold out in advance of the midnight performances, with online-ticketing services Fandango and MovieTickets also reporting sellouts in many locations for various other weekend showtimes.

As expected, the midnight money fell well short of record territory. The "Iron Man" sequel is expected to play more consistently than more fan-driven films, which tend to ring up big first-day grosses before dropping significantly through the balance of their opening weekends.
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