‘Avengers’ opens strong o’seas

'Engagement' expected to top domestic B.O.

With $17 million in overseas grosses already pocketed since Wednesday and a launch this weekend in 42 additional territories, Disney and Marvel’s “Avengers” is clearly laying a big international footprint. But it’s also stomping on B.O. predictions Stateside a full week before it hits U.S. theaters.

Pic has presold more domestic tickets than “Captain America,” “Thor,” “Iron Man 2” and “Iron Man” combined at this point during their respective runs, according to MovieTickets.com. And tracking for the film’s U.S. bow — pegged at upwards of $150 million — has skewed predictions for this weekend’s crop of frosh fare.

Disney spent considerable money and energy building “Avengers” into a global event, and auds look to be holding their breath in anticipation of the pic’s U.S. bow.

B.O. observers say that some Stateside moviegoers may be waiting to hit the plexes next weekend instead of checking out this frame’s quartet of new entries: Universal’s laffer “The Five-Year Engagement,” Sony-Aardman Animation toon “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” Edgar Allen Poe thriller “The Raven,” from Relativity Media, and Lionsgate’s Jason Statham actioner “Safe.”

With “Avengers,” the Mouse House took a page from Paramount, which released “Iron Man 2” internationally a week before it bowed in the States in 2009, and U, which got a jumpstart on a crowded overseas summer slate by bowing “Battleship” weeks ahead of its U.S. rollout.

The strategy has clearly paid off for Universal, as “Battleship” has earned $122 million in two weeks of release overseas. It opens domestically on May 18.

International box office has been riding high lately, fueled by “Battleship” and fellow tentpole “The Hunger Games.” And with grosses already topping $600 million worldwide, “The Hunger Games” will get another push in Imax this weekend, relaunching at 250 large-screen domestic locations.

With auds’ attention looking ahead another week and holdovers doing strong business, this weekend’s domestic debuts are generating solid, but not spectacular, forecasts.

U’s “Five-Year Engagement,” budgeted for $30 million with Relativity as a partner, could hit upwards of $20 million through Sunday, according to observers. “Engagement” toplines Emily Blunt and Jason Segel, who co-wrote the pic with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” scribe-helmer Nick Stoller.

The U pic is expected to lead the domestic fray, with the 3D family counterprogrammer “Pirates” likely to follow in the low- to mid-teens. Toon bows at 3,358 Stateside locations, of which approximately 2,400 are 3D.

“Pirates” has been playing overseas for four weeks, taking in more than $60 million internationally, with the U.K. contributing $22.5 million. Other top territories for “Pirates” include Germany ($6.1 million) and Australia ($5.8 million).

The two other domestic debuts, “The Raven” and “Safe,” are projected to gross somewhere in the single digits.

“Raven” could see a potential $10 million upside if the cards fall favorably. Pic, which stars John Cusack, was produced and financed by Intrepid Pictures at a cost of $20 million. Relativity acquired the film for $4 million, with a targeted and competitive marketing spend. Stuart Ford’s IM Global produced “Safe,” while Lionsgate spent in the low $20 millions to market the film.

At the specialty B.O., Fox Searchlight’s “Sound of My Voice,” which first screened at 2011’s Sundance, opens at five U.S. locations, while Millennium Entertainment’s Jack Black dark comedy “Bernie” bows at three.

Among the weekend’s holdovers, last week’s B.O. champ, Sony-Screen Gems’ “Think Like a Man,” is expected to drop north of 50%, which would put the film somewhere in the mid-teens after its $33 million opening. “Man” surpassed $40 million domestically through Wednesday.

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