One month from this weekend, Tony Stark, Pepper Potts and the other personalities of Iron Man will return to make witty mayhem in the superhero sequel.
Three days after that, Iron Man 2 could set a domestic box-office record.
Stark himself, never lacking in suave self-confidence, probably wouldn't make such a bold boast. But it's entirely feasible.
According to just-released tracking surveys, director Jon Favreau's second installment in the Marvel franchise is showing astonishing levels of interest and awareness well ahead of its three-day opening next month. There are enough statistical indications to think the first-weekend gross could top the $158.4 million haul for Dark Knight, the current record-holder for the biggest (non-inflation-adjusted) opening weekend and the gold standard for movie debuts.
Christopher Nolan's Batman sequel grossed that amount when it opened on a three-day weekend in July 2008. The same spring/ summer period brought the release of Iron Man. The character was new to mainstream audiences, star Robert Downey Jr. had yet to engineer his Hollywood comeback, and Favreau was riding a cold streak (Zathura: A Space Adventure, anyone?). The movie opened to an impressive $98 million and went on to gross more than $318 million domestically.
This year's sequel, opening May 7, should pulverize that $98 million figure. Thanks in part to Downey, the Paramount-distributed film is drawing as much (strong) interest among women older than 30 as it is among women in their 20s, the tracking surveys show. Males in their teens and 20s are so keen on the film they might as well be dressing up in iron suits. About the only people who aren't fully sold are teen girls, but there are signs of robustness there, too.