By John Young
Updated May 06, 2012 at 03:56 PM EDT

Puny Potter. Disney’s The Avengers smashed the opening weekend record by earning $200.3 million this weekend, according to studio estimates.

The prior record was held by last summer’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, which debuted to $169.2 million. But The Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon, was the perfect storm: a highly anticipated 3-D action movie that combined the superheroes of several prior Marvel blockbusters while managing to stand alone as a well-reviewed, crowd-pleasing film in its own right. Oh, and it had a Hulk.

The $220 million picture started the weekend off with $80.5 million on Friday (the second-best opening day ever after Deathly Hallows — Part 2), and then added an estimated $69.7 yesterday for the biggest Saturday gross on record. If the estimates hold, it’ll become the first movie to reach $150 million domestically in just two days. Disney is projecting $50.1 million for today, which would also be a record Sunday gross if it comes true, beating The Dark Knight‘s $43.6 million Sunday tally.

There are many amazing things to be said about The Avengers‘ performance this weekend. One that’s particularly impressive is the fact that the film dropped just 13 percent from Friday to Saturday. Compare that to the declines of some other movies with massive opening weekends: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (down 53 percent from Friday to Saturday), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (42 percent), The Dark Knight (29 percent), and The Hunger Games (25 percent).

“It’s not playing like just a superhero film,” says Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of distribution. “It’s playing like a huge, accessible-to-everyone, all-quadrant picture.” To prove Hollis’ point, Disney is reporting that the PG-13 superhero flick was split 50-50 between moviegoers under the age of 25 and those over 25. And while men outnumbered women, it wasn’t to an extreme extent; men made up 60 percent of the film’s audience.

Another explanation for The Avengers‘ humungous debut is simple: Audiences love the movie. CinemaScore participants gave it a rare “A+” rating, which puts The Avengers in the company of such beloved pictures as Die Hard, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, A Few Good Men, Forrest Gump, The Help, The Incredibles, The King’s Speech, The Lion King, and Titanic. The movie is currently No. 31 on IMDb’s user-ranked Top 250 Movies list.

Much of the credit has to go to writer-director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), a fanboy favorite who managed to craft a film that appealed to comic aficionados and ordinary moviegoers alike. “It comes down to a filmmaker and a cast of some of the finest actors working today coming together in a film that delivered on every level,” says Hollis. “Whether it was the action, the 3-D, or the humor, the fans have responded in such a positive way.”

Speaking of 3-D, The Avengers collected 52 percent of its weekend tally, or about $104 million, from 3-D showings. While other movies have posted better 3-D percentages (Avatar earned 71 percent of its opening at 3-D theaters), 52 percent still represents a solid showing for the three-dimensional format. By comparison, 3-D showings accounted for only 43 percent of Deathly Hallows — Part 2‘s debut. IMAX was also a big selling point for The Avengers, accounting for more than $15 million, or about 8 percent, of the film’s gross.

We haven’t even mentioned how the movie has performed overseas yet. The Avengers started playing in foreign markets as early as April 25, and in 12 days of release, has earned $441.5 million overseas. The film has already surpassed the final foreign grosses of every Marvel-based movie except Spider-Man 3. Throw in this weekend’s domestic numbers, and The Avengers has so far made an estimated $641.8 million worldwide and is well on its way to becoming a member of the billion-dollar club.

Hollywood could not have dreamed of a better way to start the summer movie season, and the bar has been considerably raised for July’s The Dark Knight Rises. For Disney, which bought Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion, this record opening is obviously a colossal victory. It also helps to wash away the bad taste left behind by the studio’s underperforming John Carter, which The Avengers outgrossed domestically in a single day. And perhaps most importantly, it sets the stage for a series of Marvel sequels: Iron Man 3 in May 2013, Thor 2 in November 2013, and Captain America 2 in April 2014. A sequel to The Avengers itself hasn’t been officially announced yet, but you might as well start getting in line now.

In a weekend where an estimated 83 percent of the box office was controlled by a single film, it almost seems silly to mention any other movies. Think Like a Man came in second place with $8 million, or about 4 percent of what The Avengers grossed. Still, the PG-13 relationship comedy has become a surprising hit. Produced for just $12 million, Think Like a Man has so far earned $73 million in three weeks. Rounding out the top five were The Hunger Games with $5.7 million (pushing its domestic total to $380.7 million), The Lucky One with $5.5 million, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits with $5.4 million.

In limited release, the British geriatric comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Motel opened to $750,000 at 27 locations, for a strong per-theater average of $27,778. However, the new romantic comedy A Little Bit of Heaven, starring Kate Hudson and Gael García Bernal, walked away with only a little bit of the box office: a pitiful $9,800 at 11 theaters.

1. The Avengers — $200.3 mil

2. Think Like a Man — $8.0 mil

3. The Hunger Games — $5.7 mil

4. The Lucky One — $5.5 mil

5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits — $5.4 mil

Read more:


The Avengers

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Jeremiah S. Chechik
stream service