Actioner takes in $178 mil; 'Think' bests new arrivals with $18 mil domestically

Helping avenge Disney’s bruised rep after this year’s “John Carter” misfire, Marvel’s “The Avengers” grossed a mammoth $178.4 million from is first five days across 39 territories. Domestic box office, meanwhile, seemed stuck in neutral ahead of the tentpole’s domestic bow this Friday. “The Avengers” has opened in 70% of the international marketplace, not having bowed yet in China or Russia.

A quartet of underwhelming wide openers left the domestic field wide open for Sony-Screen Gems’ “Think Like a Man,” which won its second straight weekend, grossing $18 million (down just 47%). Stateside cume is $60.9 million.

Among the weekend’s new entries, Sony-Aardman Animation’s “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” led the charge with an estimated $11.4 million, followed closely by Universal’s “The Five-Year Engagement,” which collected $11.2 million through Sunday. Those pics were the biggest disappointments this weekend, though “Pirates” has done fine overseas with $75 million internationally. “Engagement” cost a manageable $30 million to produce.

Domestic box office failed to compete with last year’s $86 million bar set by “Fast Five,” resulting in a 30% year-to-year drop for the weekend. “Avengers” began dominating B.O. headlines as early as Wednesday, with record-setting opening-day figures in countries including Taiwan and New Zealand.

China and Russia will bow the pic day-and-date with the U.S. next week; Japan will bow “Avengers” in August.

Judging by the grosses, Disney distrib topper Dave Hollis surmised that “Avengers” played to auds beyond families and fanboys, attracting a robust number of adult filmgoers. “We’re very encouraged,” Hollis said. “Hopefully, this signals just how big a summer start next weekend will be.”

The weekend’s other wide openers, “Safe” and “The Raven,” failed to crack double digits. The former — distributed domestically by Lionsgate-Summit — earned an estimated $7.7 million, while “The Raven,” from Intrepid Pictures and Relativity Media handling U.S. rights, grossed $7.3 million in three days.

At the specialty B.O., Millennium Entertainment’s black comedy “Bernie” scored the weekend’s best per-screen average of $30,109 from three locations. Pic grossed a total estimated $90,438.

Fox Searchlight’s drama “Sound of My Voice,” toplining Brit Marling as a mysterious cult leader, did OK biz in limited release. Pic bowed at five locations in New York, L.A. and Washington, D.C., averaging $8,014 per screen for an estimated total weekend of $40,069. FSL plans to broaden the pic to six additional U.S. markets next weekend.

‘Avengers’ super in Blighty

“Avengers” scored a record of some kind in virtually every market, with No. 1 bows in many international territories, including most of Latin America. It earned the most in the U.K. with $24.7 million, the biggest local opening for a superhero movie and Disney’s best-ever three-day bow in the U.K.

Australia contributed $19.7 million — another Disney benchmark locally (as well as for Marvel) and the market’s second-highest opening ever.

Outside English-speaking markets, “Avengers” saw exceptional biz in Latin America, where pic scored the highest-grossing weekends in a total of seven markets including Mexico, with $15.9 million, and Brazil ($11.3 million).

Disney launched “Avengers” a week early internationally to get a leg up on a highly competitive summer, during which seven billion-dollar franchises unspool their newest entries. Universal used a similar strategy for “Battleship,” though that pic is already in its third frame with $170 million internationally and doesn’t launch Stateside until May 18 — two weeks after “Avengers.”

Domestic expectations for “Avengers” have been through the roof for several weeks, with bizzers projecting a $150 million-plus opening. That was further proven this weekend as U.S. auds shied away from multiplexes.

Stateside slowdown

Though pre-weekend expectations for “Five-Year Engagement” began in the low-to-mid teens range, most observers thought the comedy could overperform in the $20 millions based on popularity for stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt.

Also, the domestic market has been quite robust lately: Consider last weekend’s $33 million surprise opening for “Think Like a Man.”

“Sure, we would have liked to open to $20 million, but not every picture is going to do that,” said U distribution prexy Nikki Rocco. “This is a film with older-audience appeal.”

Segel’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” opened to $17 million in April 2008 and wound up cuming $63 million. “Engagement” will struggle to see that kind of multiple. The film received mostly positive reviews, though auds gave the pic a not-so-desireable B- CinemaScore rating. Pic earned 57% of its opening from auds over 30; the film also skewed heavily toward females at 64%.

U kick-starts the film’s overseas rollout next weekend in Australia, New Zealand and Romania.

“Pirates,” meanwhile, already has done nearly $24 million in Blighty alone — not surprising given the toon’s Brit heritage from the “Wallace and Gromit” studio. The family pic’s Stateside playability is less certain with a B CinemaScore, below the norm for animated films. “It’s a world play,” admitted Sony distrib exec Rory Bruer, “and it is working.”

The weekend’s remaining wide openers, “Safe” and “The Raven,” played best to men over 25. Profitability remains unclear for either: “Raven” cost $20 million from Intrepid, while Lionsgate spent $20 million to market IM Global’s “Safe.”

On the other end of the financial spectrum, “Think Like a Man” already has more than quadrupled its production cost of $12 million-$13 million.

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