Iron Man smashed its way to the top of the charts with a mighty $100.8m three-day launch that kicked off the summer season in fine style.

The Marvel Studios film, which Paramount is releasing around the world, registered the eight biggest three-day debut of all time and easily scored the biggest opening for director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr.

Iron Man also delivered the goods internationally, grossing a formidable $96.8m from 57 territories that combined with the North America result for an emphatic $197.6m global launch. The domestic tally rises to $104.3m including Thursday night previews.

Incredibly enough overall box office fell 15% against the same weekend last year when Sony launched Spider-Man 3 on $151.1m.

Nonetheless the result bodes well for the summer and will provide good cheer not only to distributors but anxious exhibitors. The latter group continues to search for reasons to trumpet theatrical releases at a time when VOD is creeping over the horizon and alternative forms of entertainment offer strong competition.

Buoyed by enthusiastic reviews, Marvel's latest foray into the superhero world - and its first self-financed production - crushed everything in its way.

Downey Jr plays Tony Stark, a brash weapons designer who has an epiphany after he is kidnapped in Afghanistan and turns his talents to fighting crime. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Daniels and Terrence Howard also star.

Sony's romantic comedy Made Of Honor with Patrick Dempsey - riding high after the success of last year's Enchanted - and rising star Michelle Monaghan opened in second place on $15.5m.

Elsewhere the remaining titles each shifted down two places and pushed Horton Hears A Who! and Deception out of the top 10.

Next weekend's wide releases are Fox's romantic comedy What Happens In Vegas starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, and Warner Bros' family film Speed Racer, a big screen version of the hit Japanese anime series, with Emile Hirsch and Susan Sarandon.

Estimated Top 10 North America May 2-4, 2008
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date

1 (-) Iron Man (Paramount) PPI $100.8m $104.3m
2 (-) Made Of Honor (Sony) SPRI $15.5m -
3 (1) Baby Mama (Universal) UPI $10.3m $32.3m
4 (4) Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal) UPI $6.1m $44.8m
5 (2) Harold And Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (New Line/Warner Bros) NLI $6m $25.3m
6 (3) The Forbidden Kingdom (Lionsgate/TWC) TWC/Mandate
Int'l/Relativity $4.2m $45.1m
7 (5) Nim's Island (Fox) Summit Entertainment $2.8m $42.5m
8 (6) Prom Night (Screen Gems) SPRI $2.5m $41.4m
9 (7) 21 (Sony) SPRI $2.1m $79.1m
10 (8) 88 Minutes (Sony) Nu Image $1.6m $15.4m