Marvel pic trounces 'Potter' finale for best domestic opening weekend
Hulk say “The Avengers” no just break domestic record — it SMASH!Disney-Marvel’s superhero assembly rocketed past the “Harry Potter” finale’s previous Stateside peak of $169 million by nearly 20%, overcoming lesser midnights and a second-place opening day with thundering Saturday results that sent it sailing for North America’s first $200 million bullseye. While it wasn’t the triple-crown record breaker that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ was last summer — shattering global, international and domestic opening records in its day-and-date release — “Avengers” put up a conspicuous round number at home on its way to a whopping $641.8 million globally in just 12 days. Headed into the weekend, B.O. observers predicted that “Avengers” could rival the all-time record, but disagreed on how much it would ultimately make. Tally proves it reached far beyond fanboys, creating a national event for weekend moviegoers across demos. Consider this: “Avengers” scored only the eighth-highest midnight gross ($18.7 million), and its opening-day gross of $80.5 million was still second to “Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” at $92.1 million. “This record ends up being a function of how well we played on Saturday to a general audience,” said Disney distribution prexy Dave Hollis, noting that “Avengers” fell just 13% from Friday — a school day that included midnights — to Saturday, which became a record. By comparison, “Potter” fell 53% Friday-to-Saturday during opening weekend, but that pic had a much larger midnight tally ($43.5 million). Beyond “Avengers,” the weekend’s holdover crop struggled to keep aud attention; none of the frame’s top 10 made more than $10 million. In fact, “The Hunger Games” saw the best hold, down 47% (the pic’s second-steepest weekend-to-weekend drop in seven weeks), while soph-sesh players “The Raven” and “Safe” fell 66% and 69%, respectively. The specialty biz, meanwhile, did its best to impress: Fox Searchlight’s Judi Dench starrer “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” acted as ideal counterprogramming to “Avengers” by largely appealing to baby boomers. Pic averaged an estimated $27,789 from 27 locations and totaled $750,301. “Hotel” expands Friday to upwards of 150 locations. IFC’s ballet docu “First Position” debuted to sold-out screenings in New York, averaging through Sunday $10,200 from five engagements, including some in L.A. As a notable highlight overseas, Fox Intl. launched Bollywood film “Jannat 2″ in India, where the film nabbed $6.1 million, making it the year’s third-highest opening locally. “Jannat 2″ also launched limited in a few other markets, including the U.K., with marginal results. From fanboy to formatting Though “Avengers” certainly skewed toward men, at 60%, the film scored a healthy 55% of its opening from couples, with 24% families. The film also drew in a considerable segment of teenagers, at 21%. “We were clearly an option for everyone,” Disney’s Hollis said. And while it’s simply not possible to see that kind of box office success by appealing solely to fanboys, that demo certainly did most of the heavy lifting — not to mention ignite word-of-mouth that was key for “Avengers.” Evident in its Friday-to-Saturday hold, the film scored a rare A+ CinemaScore from all auds, as well as rated 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Also helping boost totals, 3D contributed 52% of the film’s opening, including 8% from Imax, which translated to more than $15 million domestically — a virtual tie with “Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ for the Imax debut record. “It’s a good result, but also representative of playing outside the Marvel core,” Hollis said. “Avengers” did better in 3D than “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which collected 40% from the format, but worse than “Thor” (60%). Both of those pics saw a more concentrated fanboy turnout — not to mention that “Avengers” already has earned in one weekend more than either of those pics cumed in the U.S. For a better 3D comparison, look to “Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” which collected 43% of its opening from 3D, including 9% from Imax. Internationally, “Avengers” boosted its prospects by expanding to blue-chip markets like Russia and China, where the pic bowed Saturday to earn the country’s best-ever two-day gross of $17.4 million. (To be fair, only a handful of films have opened on Saturday in China.) In Russia, “Avengers” scored the biggest Marvel opening, with $17.9 million, starting May 3. Already, “Avengers” has outgrossed most Marvel properties internationally, including “Captain America,” “Thor” and both “Iron Man” pics. ‘Avengers’ go downstream The $220 million blockbuster’s global box office success means more to Disney — and to its merchandising partners — than just broken records and tickets sold. The B.O. victory paves the way for greater downstream revenues, as part of the Mouse’s overall business model, including TV spin-offs (Disney XD already has its “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” toon into a second season), games, consumer products and theme parks. That’s exactly what Disney had hoped “John Carter” would do earlier this year. Though that pic landed Disney in the B.O. outhouse, studio quickly rebounded into the penthouse with “Avengers.” “This film is a true testament of the years of work it took to ever make something like this possible,” Hollis said. “It’s an unbelievable result.” “Avengers” faces major competition theatrically going forward, including next weekend’s “Dark Shadows,” from Warner Bros., and “Battleship” on May 18. But depending on how the film plays during mid-weeks and given its stellar buzz, exhibitors may want to keep the film rolling for as long as possible. Par’s ‘Avengers’ alimony It may seem Paramount missed a huge payday by handing over distribution to Disney just in time for “Avengers.” But Par’s deal includes a minimum $115 million in distribution fees for “Avengers” and “Iron Man 3″ — or the combination of an 8% and 9% cut of those pics, respectively, whichever is more. It’s a pretty penny Par is making without having to pay for a pricey marketing campaign or spend the distribution manpower.