Box Office Report: “Avengers” Assemble… (May 4-6, 2012)

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Marvel/Disney's "Avengers" charters new waters...

There are simply no words that can describe the performance of Marvel/Disney’s The Avengers.  For a studio long suffering for any kind of success, Disney/Buena Vista have delivered the greatest opening weekend of all time domestically, eclipsing an unthinkable $207.4 million in three scant days.  The Avengers has already outgrossed Thor, Captain America:The First Avenger, and both Hulk films in domestic gross and could catch and surpass both Iron Man films by the end of next weekend.  Our own Joey Magidson broke the story yesterday, but we are well on our way to seeing this film become one of the Top 5 biggest grossing films of all time, both domestic and internationally.

Whether this incredible pace holds up or not is obviously something that waits to be seen, but if you burn off 50% of the opening weekend audience, The Avengers still earns approximately $100-$105 million.  When considering a very conservative $70-80 million week (Monday-Thursday), we may be looking at a film with a domestic 10-day box office gross up near $400 million.  The current 10-day record belongs to The Dark Knight which amassed $313.8 million in its first 10 days.  Lastly, The Avengers would have to lose more than 65% of its opening weekend audience to fall short of Avatar‘s record second weekend gross.  James Cameron’s box office king banked $75.6 million in its second weekend.  For curiosity sake, Avatar‘s 10-day total? $212.7 million.

Much will be written about Disney/Buena Vista’s marketing acumen in pulling this off, but at the end of the day the fact that the film is exceptionally well received plays a big part in the film’s enthusiastic response.  Samuel L. Jackson’s first appearance as Nick Fury dates back to 2008 and with each subsequent cinematic success, some bigger than others, the seeds have been established that these characters are on a collision course for something epic, unforgettable, and unmissable.  The Avengers redefines the “Event Movie” concept and draws from a staggering number of interested viewers.  Be they comic book aficionados or those who thought Robert Downey, Jr. was good in one of those Iron Man movies, people wanted this film.  And they got it.  The biggest sampling CinemaScore has ever taken resulted in an “A+” rating, which says that people are seeing this film multiple times, likely taking friends to it again and again.  Joss Whedon will never fly under the radar ever again and if it is even possible to cement these characters deeper into the pop culture canon, it has clearly been done.

Moving forward, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and a second Captain America film are on their way in the next couple of years and talks have escalated in the last few weeks for spinoffs featuring Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and even Mark Ruffalo to reprise his Bruce Banner/Hulk into a third attempt at cinematic success for the big green monster.  While that feeds into mere speculation at this point, it is quite apparent that we are going to have Avengers films around for years and years to come.

While Disney and Buena Vista have rightfully been much maligned in recent years for mismanaging film projects and losing the confidence of investors, board members, and the general public, Disney, and naturally Marvel, deserve high praise for nailing the marketing strategy expertly here.  The House of Mouse may be back, at least for a few weekends…

Another success for Fox Searchlight!

The only other new film of note was the extremely well attended The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is the definition of counterprogramming, even if Fox Searchlight selectively opened it on 27 screens.  A robust per screen average brought the film’s opening weekend to $737k, which adds to an impressive $72.4 million international haul earlier this year.

Everything else took a massive hit with the arrival of The Avengers as The Hunger Games lost the least of the Top 10 films of the weekend, losing 47.3% of its previous weekend audience.  Lionsgate’s juggernaut has a 7-week total of $380.7 million domestic and $617.7 million globally.

Curiously, John Carter saw a jump to discount theaters and some first-run houses, who bought in to a Disney strategy to co-promote the colossal success of The Avengers with the colossal failure that is John Carter.  People took a look, as the film increased its business a whopping 1,223.8% and turned in $1.5 million in receipts.  The film still has a loss of more than $180 million domestically when comparing gross to budget and has barely earned its production budget back in total.  There is no hope to earn back the more than $200 million in marketing, but hey look over there…THE AVENGERS!!!

Weigh in…what hopes does Warner Bros. Dark Shadows stand to be heard in the cacophony of Avengers noise?  Will people go at all?

Here are the weekend’s 10 most attended films (with dollar amounts in millions):

FILMWKNDTOTAL% +/-STUDIO
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS$207.4$207.4NEWBuena Vista
THINK LIKE A MAN$8.1$73.1-54.0Screen Gems
THE HUNGER GAMES$5.7$380.7-47.3Lionsgate
THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS$5.5$18.7-50.6Sony
THE LUCKY ONE$5.4$47.8-50.3Warner Bros.
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT$5.0$19.1-52.6Universal
THE RAVEN$2.6$12.2-63.8Relativity
CHIMPANZEE$2.5$23.1-52.5Buena Vista
SAFE$2.47$12.9-68.7Lionsgate
THE THREE STOOGES$1.8$39.7-64.520th Century Fox