Avengers Explodes: Meet the New Box Office Superhero
By John Hamann
May 6, 2012
The Dark Knight's Saturday gross was off 29% from its first day gross (including midnights) at $47.65 million, or about $1 million off from its "true" Friday number. The Saturday gross for Marvel's Avengers was an absolutely astounding $69.7 million, meaning it dropped 13% from its midnight-inflated Friday, but increased 13% from its "true" Friday night gross. Sunday was estimated at $50.1 million, which means the new weekend champ of all time is Marvel's Avengers, which took in a world-beating $200.3 million over three days this weekend. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 still owns opening day gross and midnight screening records, but the rest of them have fallen over this historic weekend.
The Avengers opened at 4,349 venues, and had an out-of-this-world venue average of $46,063, thanks to 3D pricing and IMAX venues. It finished the weekend with a multiplier of 2.94 (with the midnight screenings removed), which not only speaks to quality and buzz, but also to advanced ticket sales. This is a new movie ticket sales marketplace we live in compared to ten years ago, and people are now slotting themselves into Saturday and Sunday screenings in advance, which is having an impact on weekend box office. The Avengers is not a fanboy movie or sequel; however, those are ingredients in its success. It's like Potter 7.2, but didn't have seven films before it priming the eighth to launch into the stratosphere. While there were four disparate precursors (six if you count the failed Hulk projects) for The Avengers, Potter built to a conclusion, while the Marvel films built to an introduction. Logically, Potter's final chapter should have been more appealing than the start of The Avengers.
How did Marvel accomplish this feat? Marketing, but only a small portion was the traditional marketing we've seen over the last 30 years. Sure, the trailer was great and buzz worthy. Marvel and Disney did all the things necessary to turn a tentpole into a franchise, but we are talking the biggest movie weekend ever, after all, and Heath Ledger didn't die after filming. The best marketing for Marvel's Avengers happened inside the movies of the Marvel Universe. They did this by having Nick Fury show up in Captain America, Thor and the two Iron Man films, Agent Coulson in Thor and the two Iron Man films, Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk, Captain America's shield in both Iron Man films, Black Widow in Iron Man 2, and Hawkeye and the villain of The Avengers, Loki, appearing in Thor. This cross-pollination of superheroes has always kept the idea of an Avengers movie at the forefront of audiences' brains. They knew that The Avengers was coming soon, and that they should pay attention. The Marvel films associated with the Avengers (Iron Man 1+2, Thor, Captain America, and 2008's The Incredible Hulk) have amassed $1.123 billion at the domestic box office alone, all of which kept this cross-marketing idea alive. I would say that it worked.
After seeing the opening credits for Marvel's Avengers, you may have thought this one was a Paramount release instead of a Disney release, as the Paramount logo appeared, but not Disney's. In 2009, when Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion (a price I thought was ridiculous at the time, but not anymore), Paramount had previously distributed the original Iron Man moving, earning about a half-billion dollars in ticket sales from just that film alone. Paramount also had rights to distribute Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor and The Avengers. In 2010 it was announced that Paramount would continue with Iron Man 2, Captain America and Thor, but distribution would revert back to Disney for The Avengers and Iron Man 3. Disney paid Paramount $115 million to back away from The Avengers and Iron Man 3, or 8% of the box office, whichever is more. According to Variety, the deal also kept Paramount's logo on the film, even though they aren't the true distributor. Should what is now called Marvel's Avengers earn $1.5 billion at the box office, Paramount stands to earn $120 million from just this title alone.