Robert Downey, Jr. in 'Iron Man 3'
Robert Downey, Jr. in 'Iron Man 3'

Disney and Marvel are chortling with glee at the massive global success of "The Iron Man 3," finally adding late arrival North America to its huge foreign openings. The domestic numbers rank a bit below what "The Avengers" did one year ago, but overtaking that number was a tall order. Even so, $175 million for the weekend is at the high end of expectations, with the best news coming from Saturday's modest drop from the initial number.

"Iron Man 3" alone can't save the depressing 2013 North American market. Indeed, in terms of total gross comparison from 2012, this weekend at $210 million showed a $35 million drop from last year ("Avengers"' higher opening means one of the biggest year-to-year drops in raw figures for 2013). That "Iron Man 3" showed impressive strength is good news, as it's just the first of many expected major releases in upcoming weeks. But it alone won't save the year. Audience interest in seeing upcoming pictures will make the difference. 

1. Iron Man 3 (Buena Vista) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Criticwire grade: B; Metacritic score: 62

$175,300,000 in 4,253 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $41,218; Cumulative: $175,300,000

In raw numbers, this weekend was the second best ever, impressive even accounting for inflation. Though not as big as "The Avengers"'  $207 million a year ago, most encouraging for Disney and Marvel is that Saturday was up from Friday once the Thursday night totals are removed from the count ($62 million from $53 on Friday, with the initial combined figure $68). This is important on two levels - it indicates decent word of mouth (any initial negative reaction would have quickly spread with the huge initial audience) and the movie drew kids at matinees in huge numbers.

"The Avengers" dropped 14% Saturday from its higher combined opening, while "Iron Man 3" dropped about 9%. Considering the great sustained run "The Avengers" had -- over $600 million in the US/Canada, nine weeks in the top 10, bolstered by great word of mouth -- this smaller drop is as important a statistic as the overall number.

With the entire world now open, the estimated total through Sunday now stands at $680 million in only 12 days of release, with most of the territories having played for less time, and the U.S./Canada only this weekend. Though its domestic total might not be the best, the accumulation of individual records for various countries, particularly those like China which are rapidly growing in importance, is impressive. The total worldwide gross already is ahead of the two previous "Iron Man" films (both strong in themselves).

What comes next: A long run, with a second #1 week likely even with a big drop and "The Great Gatsby" opening. This should pass $1 billion by some margin worldwide.

2. Pain & Gain (Paramount) Week 2 - Last weekend: #1

$7,600,000 (-62%) in 3,287 theaters (+10); PSA: $2,312; Cumulative: $33,919,000

A steep falloff, which can only be partly attributed to competition this week. The pairing of Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson in an action comedy, based on their previous success, should have been a natural. Something just didn't click here, and this will struggle to hit $50 million.

What comes next: Foreign doesn't come for a while (away from the major tentpole openings), so this film's ultimate accounting (fortunately for Paramount, it only cost $26 million) is still to come.

3. 42 (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend: #3

$6,210,000 (-42%) in 3,345 theaters (-60); PSA: $1,857; Cumulative: $78,336,000

A respectable hold in a tough week, and keeping third place (and becoming one of the few films to still be in the top three for a fourth week this year), Warner Bros. has a solid hit with this baseball biopic, even if international is likely to be below these totals.

What comes next: Still with a chance to hit $100 million, and could be a factor in at least the acting categories come awards time.