Disney's $4 billion investment in Marvel Studios is about to payoff.  With a little over three weeks before opening, Jon Favreau's "Iron Man 2" is tempting the box office gods by threatening to break "The Dark Knight's" July 2009 $158.4 million opening weekend gross. 

Pre-release industry polling finds the highly-anticipated "Iron Man" sequel looking at a mammoth $160 million plus opening weekend.  Similar polls taken this far out before "Spider-Man 3's" release found Sony's Web Slinger to have higher awareness comparably, but audiences number one choice among all movies has never been recorded at this level. That is putting the "Dark Knight's" record in serious danger.

The first "Iron Man" opened to a blockbuster $98.6 million in May 2008 in 4,105 theaters.  It eventually grossed a mammoth $318.4 million in the U.S. and $585.1 million across the globe.  The film confirmed Marvel Studios new strategy of producing and shepherding their own characters on the big screen and kickstarted Robert Downey, Jr.'s career. In the two years since, Downey, Jr. has arguably become one of the biggest movie stars in the world and the franchise's fandom and awareness has only grown.  That's a pretty potent mix for an expected blockbuster beginning the summer movie season.

"Iron Man 2" isn't guaranteed to beat "Dark Knight's" three-day figure, but it will be close either way.  Another intriguing record in the hero's sights is "The Twilight Saga: New Moon's" opening day gross of $72 million which shattered "The Dark Knight's" previous record of $67 million.  Even with a slew of 9 PM and midnight shows the Thursday before (which are counted on a Friday opening), that may be a tough figure to overcome. And if Tony Stark and Co. can hit that mark, the third "Twilight" sequel, "Eclipse," could still regain the title a little over seven weeks later.

Other potential blockbusters this summer include, "Shrek Forever After," "Toy Story 3," "Inception," "Sex and the City 2" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World."  However, none of them have a shot at coming close to "Iron Man 2's" expected 3-day numbers.

The superhero fun at the box office begins when "Iron Man 2" opens nationwide and on IMAX on May 3.