The Avengers’ earth-shattering box office
In the days leading up to The Avengers release on May 4, the projections were calling for a $150-170 million opening weekend. I thought it would just beat the high side, ending up around $172 million, which would best the previous opening weekend record set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 of $169 million.
When I got up Sunday morning and started reading emails, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw the three-day estimate for The Avengers was $200.3 million. That is unheard of. Literally—everyone I know, including P who does box office analysis for a living, was completely floored by that number. So when the actuals came out on Monday, you can imagine our shock and awe at the staggering $207 million The Avengers pulled in, and without the benefit of a holiday. That number changes the face of summer box office completely.
Whenever The Avengers comes up you inevitably get comments from fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise - it’s a DC vs. Marvel (Lainey: and petty fangirl) thing that goes back ages - and they would always say that it didn’t matter how much people like The Avengers because come July, The Dark Knight Rises would wipe the floor with the superhero mashup. And I actually didn’t disagree with that, before That Number, because The Dark Knight was huge and anticipation has been building for four years for the final entry in the series and in between, Nolan delivered another monster with Inception. A week ago, there was no reason to believe that no matter how well The Avengers did, Rises would do better.
Look, I’m a HUGE Nolan fan, and I love what he’s done with Batman. I don’t even think of those movies as “comic book” or “superhero” movies. They’re completely other within the genre. But Rises is at a distinct disadvantage. What pushed The Avengers over the top was that everyone can enjoy it, from the five year old to the fifty year old. It genuinely has broad-base appeal. But Nolan’s movies have always been dark, and have always been right at the edge of PG-13 and R. They’re a bit much for small children, and Rises looks to be the darkest, most violent one yet. To beat That Number, Rises would have to bring in the kiddies and I don’t see that happening. Further, The Avengers benefitted from over 50% of their receipts coming from the more-expensive 3D tickets, and while Rises will be in IMAX, it will not be in 3D. So they won’t get that upsurge. (Lainey: built-in excuse for the nerds and fangirls!) Between those two factors—small children and 3D—I don’t think Rises can trump That Number.
But before you yell at me, keep in mind that we’re talking about what will be the top two grossing films of the summer, and probably of the year (The Hobbit will be way up there, too). Both movies will make around a billion dollars, and the success of one in no way diminishes the success of the other. These two movies can coexist as examples of just how good movies, not just comic book movies, can be. I loved The Avengers. I look forward to loving Rises. It’s two different experiences at the cinema.
On another note, remember that $200 million dollar Disney write-down after John Carter tanked? And that Disney sacked their studio chief, Rich Ross, because of it? The extraordinary success of The Avengers has wiped out that loss. Movies are truly a fickle business.
Attached - Robert Downey Jr on The Tonight Show last week.