Iron Man' opening tops box-office expectations

LOS ANGELES, May 4 (Reuters) - Comic book adventure "Iron Man" proved its mettle at the North America box office, kicking off the summer movie season with estimated weekend ticket sales of $100.75 million and marking an unlikely commercial rebound for its star, Robert Downey Jr.

The tally far exceeded expectations of an opening in the $70 million to $80 million range for the three-day period beginning Friday. All told, the movie grossed $104.25 million, counting receipts from Thursday evening previews, according to studio figures issued on Sunday.

"Iron Man's" U.S.-Canadian haul fell just shy of the $114.8 million grossed by "Spider-Man" in the first weekend of May 2002 -- a tally that stands as the biggest domestic opening ever for a non-sequel film.

Drawing largely favorable reviews, "Iron Man" stars Downey, 43, as billionaire industrialist and playboy Tony Stark, who wrestles with a mid-life crisis as he invents a high-tech suit of armor that transforms him into a superhero. The film was directed by Jon Favreau.

"Iron Man" easily marks Downey's biggest picture yet, at least in commercial terms. Best known for his Oscar-nominated turn as Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 biopic "Chaplin," his career floundered in the 1990s when he succumbed to drug addictions that ultimately landed him in prison for a year.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Bill Trott)

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