Weekend Wrap-Up

Avengers Explodes: Meet the New Box Office Superhero

By John Hamann

May 6, 2012

Iron Man uses a laser to ensure the decimation of the box office record.

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Summer movies are here and the box office is rolling. Only seven weekends after The Hunger Games blew up the box office and opened to $152 million, we have something much bigger this frame in the form of Marvel's The Avengers. The superhero mash-up rode an impressive streak of superior marketing (maybe the best ever in the history of movies) and super-strong buzz to a record-breaking opening weekend of $200.3 million. Summer has started, and to say that Marvel's Avengers has started it with a bang is an insult to bangs.

The number one film in North America - and around the world - is The Avengers, the all-star superhero flick. Not only does it sport names like Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, but it also has the true stars of the Marvel Universe: Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk, just to name a few. Never before has it been the case that the character names have been more of a draw for a movie than the actor's names.

Avengers started its historic weekend with $18.7 million on Thursday night, the most ever for a superhero movie, but the midnight gross paled in comparison with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5 from midnights) and to a lesser extent, The Hunger Games ($19.7 million from midnights). The Dark Knight earned a similar $18.5 million from those midnight screenings, so eyes were on the first day gross of the Avengers versus the first day of The Dark Knight's reign. The Batman Begins sequel took in $67.2 million in its first 24 hours. With midnights subtracted, it equaled a $48.7 million opening day. The Hunger Games had a first day of $67.2 million, but that's reduced to $47.5 million after midnights are removed. Finally, there's the big dog, Harry Potter 7.2 - it earned a historic $91.1 million on opening day. That's a record Potter will continue to hold, but you have to keep in mind that it really came in at $47.6 million once those midnights are subtracted.


So, compared to these juggernauts, how did The Avengers do?

After earning $18.7 million on Thursday night, Friday daytime screenings had Disney expecting a $65-$70 million opening day, according to The Hollywood Reporter. They were surprised by busy late night showings on Friday, and the opening day came in at a sizzling $80.5 million, behind only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. However, if we pull out the $18.7 million earned by Marvel's Avengers on Thursday night, the true opening day tally hits $61.8 million, which should be considered the actual record breaker. After Friday, The Avengers was already leaps and bounds ahead of The Dark Knight, and had Potter in its sights. It was going to come down to the weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by opening day gross). If we assumed that it would follow The Dark Knight's trajectory, the formula for the weekend would have looked like this:

$80.5 million (Friday) - $18.7 million (midnight showings) = 61.8 million x 2.7 multiplier = 166.9 million + 18.7 million (adding back in the midnight showings) = 185.6 million

Should the expected weekend multiplier of 2.7 hold, The Avengers was going to have the largest weekend of all time. Had the multiplier slipped to 2.6, the weekend would have been $179.4 million, still well above Potter's $169.2 million record-breaking haul. A multiplier of 2.5 would have given Potter a shot at holding the title, as The Avengers' total would have hit $173.2 million. Any multiplier lower than 2.5 would have left Potter as champ, and a 2.3 would put it on par with The Dark Knight. However, because the formula pulls out the midnight amounts, the multiplier should never be that low, and as of Saturday morning Marvel's Avengers was expected to come in at 2.6 or higher. After the midnights were pulled out of The Dark Knight's total, the weekend multiplier for that sequel came in at an amazing 2.9. The Dark Knight was able to pull that kind of multiplier because it had fan power and it was good, not unlike The Avengers. The Dark Knight was 94% fresh at RottenTomatoes, Marvel's Avengers came in at 93%, along with an A+ Cinemascore.

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