Could ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Three-Hour Runtime Prevent an Opening Weekend Record?

Could “Avengers: Endgame” be too much of a good thing?

There’s no disputing that “Endgame,” Disney and Marvel’s upcoming epic superhero finale, will be a bona fide box office smash when it hits theaters on April 26. However its runtime, testing the bladders of audiences across the globe at three hours and one minute, poses an interesting dilemma. Multiplexes will have to find ways to get around the film’s extended length to ensure opening weekend ticket sales reach stratospheric levels.

Avengers: Endgame” is the longest Marvel tentpole to date, and its runtime means there will fewer showings per venue each day. For the average movie, theater owners generally factor in three hours for each screening. That leaves enough time to run pre-show trailers before the film, as well as a chance for janitors to clean up after end credits roll. But given the duration of “Endgame,” exhibitors are budgeting an additional hour for each screening, which cuts at least one showtime daily.

In order to make up for lost screen times, exhibitors will likely try to increase the number of individual auditoriums that play “Endgame,” with the exception of single-screen theaters. If a movie theater chain has 10 auditoriums, half of those could be allocated to “Avengers: Endgame” showings, which could result in box office crumbs for other spring releases. Competing movies (in the case of “Avengers: Endgame,” that might mean fellow studio titles “Captain Marvel” and “Dumbo,” along with STX’s “Best of Enemies,” Paramount’s “Pet Sematary,” and Warner Bros.’ “Shazam!”) could take hits, though they will all have opened more than three weeks before. For that reason, rival studios tent to avoid opening a movie in the weeks surrounding a massive blockbuster.

Disney could also cover more ground by expanding the number of theaters that play “Avengers: Endgame.” “Avengers: Infinity War,” which ran at 2 hours and 36 minutes, debuted in 4,474 locations in North America, amassing an average of $57,599 from each individual theater. “Infinity War” marks only the third-widest opening release ever, behind “Despicable Me 3” (4,529 theaters, $20,895 per venue) and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (4,475 theaters, $33,078 per venue).

Early tracking shows “Avengers: Endgame” could clear between $200 million and $260 million during its first three days of release. If ticket sales reach the higher part of that range, it will become the highest-grossing domestic debut ever. “Avengers: Infinity War,” the predecessor to “Endgame,” currently holds the record for the biggest domestic opening weekend of all time with $258 million. Box office sages are bullish on “Endgame,” confident that the culmination to the current phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could blow past those predictions and set a new benchmark in North America.

“Avengers: Endgame” is also eyeing a global record. “Avengers: Infinity War” secured the biggest worldwide debut ever with $640 million in ticket sales, sans China. When it opened in the Middle Kingdom two weeks later, it generated $191 million. Since “Avengers: Endgame” opens day and date in all major territories, including China, it should easily eclipse that figure. Prior to “Infinity War,” the global record was held by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($247 million).

Anthony and Joe Russo returned to direct “Avengers: Endgame,” which stars just about every Marvel hero under the sun (at least, those who avoided getting wiped out by Thanos). The cast includes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). It directly follows the events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” which ended in the snapture, when a marbled baddie named Thanos (Josh Brolin) eliminated half of life on the universe with a simple snap. The remaining Avengers are now left to assemble one last time to revert his actions.

If ticket pre-sales are any indication, “Avengers: Endgame” is well on its way to box office glory. Atom Tickets reported that the movie has sold twice as many tickets in its first week of pre-sales than “Aquaman,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Captain Marvel” combined. Meanwhile, ticketing service Fandango said it sold five times as many tickets as “Avengers: Infinity War” in the first seven days of sales.

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