Disney debuts a specially tailored version of "Iron Man 3" in China on Wednesday, as the superhero sequel builds on foreign grosses that have skyrocketed past $200 million in less than a week.
China, the world's No. 2 movie market, is the centerpiece of Disney's foreign campaign and will have a lot to do with whether "Iron Man 3" will reach $1 billion in worldwide grosses. It debuts in Germany as well Wednesday, and on Friday in the United.States.
The Marvel superhero sequel looks to be in good shape for its China close-up.
"Iron Man 2" took in just $8 million in 2010, but that was before the Chinese market exploded with thousands of new theaters. The Chinese box office reached $2.7 billion in 2012, up 36 percent from the year-earlier total. Last year, "The Avengers" brought in $84 million from China and analysts believe that the "Iron Man 3" grosses will be much closer to that.
"It's a little tricky because a sequel to a film that not many people saw normally wouldn't have great prospects," Bruce Nash, founder of the box office stats site The Numbers told TheWrap. "But this one has played like a sequel to 'The Avengers' so far, and I think it will in China, too."
Disney has had its eye on the Chinese market since it began filming "Iron Man 3" last year. The movie was partly financed by the Chinese studio DMG, which will co-distribute in China. The movie includes a number of scenes filmed on location in the People's Republic and also, according to Marvel, includes "significant Chinese elements" including special bonus footage and an appearance by one of that country's most popular actresses, Fan Bingbing (photo right).
Some of the cast took a promotional tour to China earlier this month, during which star Robert Downey Jr. professed his fascination with the country's culture.
"I'm interested in all things Chinese and I live a very Chinese life in America," Downey told a Beijing news conference earlier this month.
Having a Chinese partner likely eased the film's trip through the opaque and stringent People's Republic censors. They recently dictated changes in the Sony's James Bond film "Skyfall" and pulled the studio's "Django Unchained" just before its debut, before relenting after the violent film was cut.
A number of changes have been made in the film to accommodate Chinese sensibilities. The name of Ben Kingsley's villainous character "Mandarin," for example, has been translated as "Man Daren" in the Chinese version, according to Reuters.
The film also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall. Veteran Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon") directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Drew Pearce. Jon Favreau, who directed the first two films, is an executive producer, and appears in the movie.
"Iron Man 3" opened No. 1 in all 27 markets in which it debuted over the past weekend. The United Kingdom was tops with $21 million, followed by Korea ($19 million), Australia ($18 million) and Mexico ($16 million). It took in $7.2 million on 113 Imax theaters, for a whopping $64,000 per-screen average, better than "The Avengers."