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‘Iron Man 3’ on top of the world

U.S. says ‘yes’  to ‘Pain & Gain’

This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "Pain and Gain." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Jaime Trueblood)

This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "Pain and Gain." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Jaime Trueblood)

Iron Man 3 was the heavy-lifter at theaters with a colossal overseas debut that overshadowed a gang of mercenary bodybuilders in a sleepy pre-summer weekend at the domestic box office.

The Marvel Studios superhero sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. got a head-start on its domestic launch next Friday with a $195.3 million opening in 42 overseas markets, distributor Disney reported yesterday.

That topped the $185.1 million start for Marvel’s The Avengers, which opened in 39 markets over the same weekend last year a week ahead of its record-breaking domestic debut of $207.4 million.

“You don’t know that you could ever repeat the kind of experience we had a year ago, and here the Marvel team brought together another incredible movie,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. “We’ve had this as a pattern for Marvel films to kind of let momentum internationally help signal to the domestic audience that the film is coming, something big is coming.”

Director Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, a true-crime tale of bodybuilders on the make, muscled into first-place domestically with a $20 million debut.

The Paramount release starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie knocked off Tom Cruise’s sci-fi adventure Oblivion after a week in the No. 1 spot. Universal’s Oblivion slipped to second place with $17.4 million, raising its domestic total to $64.7 million.

Lionsgate’s all-star nuptial comedy The Big Wedding tanked at No. 4 with just $7.5 million. The ensemble cast includes Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon and Katherine Heigl, but the movie was almost universally trashed by critics and held little interest for audiences.

Paramount, which distributed the earlier Iron Man movies and still has a financial stake in the comic-book flicks after Disney bought Marvel, had a small-scale success with Pain & Gain.

A passion project for Bay, who has made Paramount a fortune with his Transformers franchise, Pain & Gain was shot for a modest $26 million, spare change compared with the director’s usual budgets.

The movie has the director taking a breather from his usual sci-fi action spectacles for a story based on a kidnapping-extortion caper carried out by bodybuilders in the 1990s. Yet Pain & Gain still has Bay’s usual visual flair, and the reviews generally were better than what he’s used to.

“With that kind of budget, to open to $20 million the first weekend is a very strong opening,” said Don Harris, Paramount’s head of distribution. “You see what a director really in his prime, at the top of his game, can do with a small budget, what he can make a movie look like.”

Oblivion was down a fairly steep 53 percent from the movie’s $37.1 million domestic debut the previous weekend.

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