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By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud
May 12 (Reuters) - Tony Stark's superpowers lifted blockbuster "Iron Man 3" back to the top of movie charts in the United States and Canada, beating out a strong debut over the weekend for lavish Jazz Age drama "The Great Gatsby."
Coming off a gigantic opening a week earlier, "Iron Man 3" commanded $72.5 million in ticket sales from Friday through Sunday in its second weekend. "Gatsby," starring Leonardo DiCaprio as millionaire Jay Gatsby in the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald tale, earned a strong $51.1 million, according to studio estimates.
Domestic ticket sales for "Iron Man 3" dropped 58 percent from a week earlier, when the film hauled in $174.1 million for the second-biggest movie opening of all time. The film from Walt Disney Co's Marvel Studios stars Robert Downey Jr. as Stark, a billionaire businessman with a superhero alter ego.
International sales for "Iron Man 3" reached a massive $664 million through Sunday after adding $89 million from the weekend, Disney said. The film's worldwide take now stands at $949 million.
"Gatsby" outpaced pre-weekend forecasts for an opening of up to $45 million. Directed by Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, it is the latest Hollywood rendition of Fitzgerald's classic American novel, "The Great Gatsby." A 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow fared poorly at the box office.
DiCaprio stars in the title role, a millionaire pining for a lost love, played by Carey Mulligan, during the height of the hedonistic 1920s. Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton also star. Rapper Jay-Z produced the soundtrack.
"We never expected to open this picture at this level," said Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Bros., the Time Warner Inc unit that distributed the film.
Fellman said the picture, which has been accorded the prestigious opening night slot at this week's Cannes Film Festival, was now well-positioned for a long run into the summer as an alternative to traditional action movies.
The majority of ticket buyers were female by 59 percent to 41 percent, and 31 percent of ticket buyers were under age 25, Warner Bros. said.
"We're going to have a nice, long healthy run," he told Reuters.
DiCaprio's performance was widely praised, but the movie, which cost about $105 million to produce, received a mixed reception from critics. As of Saturday, 48 percent of reviews recommended the film on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
But in its opening weekend, the film very nearly eclipsed the total $57.4 million take of Luhrmann's most successful film, "Moulin Rouge," which went on to win several Academy Awards.
Elsewhere over the weekend, dark action comedy "Pain & Gain" starring Mark Wahlberg placed a distant third with $5 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters.
Comedy "Peeples," the other new nationwide release, finished fourth with $4.9 million. Produced by Tyler Perry, the film stars Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington in the story of a well-off family's reunion that is interrupted when a man arrives to seek their daughter's hand in marriage.
Baseball drama "42" finished in fifth place with $4.7 million.
"Star Trek Into Darkness," which opens domestically on Wednesday, took in $31.7 million in seven international territories including Britain, Mexico, Australia and Germany, Paramount Pictures reported.
"Pain & Gain" was released by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. Lions Gate Entertainment distributed "Peeples," and Warner Bros. distributed "42."