International hit "Iron Man 3" flew into U.S. and Canadian theaters, kicking off Hollywood's summer blockbuster season with $15.6 million in ticket sales late Thursday and early Friday.
The superhero sequel from Walt Disney Co's Marvel studio is expected to finish the weekend with one of the biggest debuts in film history. Box office analysts predict the movie will bring in $150 million or more from Friday through Sunday, likely ranking in the top five all-time openings.
The opening night sales fell short of the $18.7 million earned a year ago by Disney's "The Avengers," which brought together Iron Man, The Hulk and other Marvel superheroes. "Avengers" went on to earn $207 million in its first three days, a record for the North American (U.S. and Canadian) market.
"Iron Man 3," starring Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire businessman Tony Stark, has pulled in $345.4 million in overseas markets since it debuted April 24, Disney said on Friday. The film set opening day records in several countries including China and Russia.
In "Iron Man 3," Stark fights to save the world from an extremist known as The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Alden Bentley)