How Far Past $1 Billion Can “Iron Man 3″ Go?

It wasn’t long ago that the two biggest U.S. theater chains were refusing to sell “Iron Man 3″ tickets because of Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) demands. Now, as “Iron Man 3″ soars past $1 billion in sales, it seems like everyone on earth is selling tickets to the ultra-hot comic book film. What remains to be seen in show many box office records the movie will break.

The raw numbers are mind-boggling. “Iron Man 3″ cleared the $1 billion mark in only 24 days, a feat that only Disney’s “The Avengers” has ever topped in the comic book department. (Robery Downey, Jr.’s character Tony Stark, who dons the Iron Man costume for all three films, was one of the team of superheroes assembled for “The Avengers.”) That enormous sales figure includes over $300 million of tickets sold in the U.S. and over $100 million in China.

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After clocking $160 million last weekend alone, observers are betting the film will break the top ten of all-time box office sales. It currently stands at #15 and has the potential to break $1.5 billion, a significant feat for a film budgeted at $200 million. “Iron Man 3″ milestones include passing “Jurassic Park” and “The Dark Knight,” a superhero competitor, this past week. For all its accomplishments, the performance of “Iron Man 3″ in China has been truly impressive.

Disney and director Shane Black made some creative concessions for the version of “Iron Man 3″ playing in Chinese theaters. Extra scenes were filmed to bring popular Chinese actors into the story. This cut will only play to Chinese audiences, yet the sacrifice paid off for Disney in a market where censorship threatens to subdue ticket sales.

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In that respect, the success overseas — where the film has made over $700 million — is a product of Disney’s finesse in the global marketing game. “Iron Man 3″ has already broken $40 million in Mexico and the U.K. while grossing $56  million in Korea. Now that it stands in fifteenth place in less than a single month, Disney executives are hoping it can move up several places on the all-time box office list. Six of the fourteen films ahead — including “Toy Story” and “Alice in Wonderland” — are Disney’s own.

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