'Iron Man 3' Snags Prime China Release, Same Date as North America

Iron Man 3 Downey Paltrow - H 2013
Marvel Entertainment

Iron Man 3 Downey Paltrow - H 2013

UPDATED: A special cut of the superhero tentpole was tailor-made for Chinese audiences.

Disney and Marvel Studios' Iron Man 3 will become one of the few Hollywood films to debut simultaneously in North America and China. The superhero tentpole rolls out in both markets on May 3.

The last film to secure a day-and-date release was the independently financed Looper, which debuted in China and the U.S. on Sept. 28, 2012. Iron Man 2, distributed by Paramount on behalf of Marvel, likewise opened on the same day in each market.

Iron Man 3, the first in a long parade of 2013 summer tentpoles, is opening in much of the world this weekend, beginning with several key foreign markets today, including Australia, Italy and France, followed tomorrow by the U.K. and Korea. All told, the threequel will have rolled out in 80 percent of the globe by Sunday, minus the U.S., China and Russia.

Both Iron Man 3 and Looper were made in part with Chinese money, and each contain scenes tailor-made for Chinese audiences.

Iron Man 3 is a joint production of the Disney-owned Marvel Pictures and Beijing-based DMG Entertainment. Robert Downey Jr., returning in the title role, will attend the Beijing premiere of the film on April 6.

All versions of the film will feature scenes shot in Beijing, product placement for Chinese electronics manufacturer TCL and co-star Wang Xueqi, but a version cut for the world's most populous nation also will boast "specially prepared bonus footage" and an appearance by megastar Fan Bingbing.

Big-budget American films have proved to be major hits in China, helping to push the nation's box office to $2.7 billion in 2012. Hollywood is hoping that Iron Man 3 helps to reverse a recent downturn at the Chinese box office for U.S. films (G.I. Joe: Retaliaton is an exception, opening to a stellar $33 million last weekend).