By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood May 6, 2012 at 12:26PM
The summer of 2012 is off to a sizzling best start ever as Disney’s “The Avengers” shattered North American box office records by a wide margin this weekend. Distributor estimates have the Marvel Studios production racking up a heart pounding $200.3 million in its first three days of release – marking the biggest opening in box office history by far. With the film debuting in 4,349 locations, the per-theater average was a staggering $46,063.
Joss Whedon's “Avengers” topped the previous holder of that distinctive title, Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” which opened with $169.2 million in July of last summer, by close to $30 million. The opening marks the first time a film has ever topped the $200 million mark in three days or on its debut weekend.
“Avengers” began its international release 12 days ago and has so far generated an estimated $441.5 million through the weekend, giving the superhero movie a worldwide total of a jaw-dropping $641.8 million.
The overall weekend in North America was up a staunch 49% compared with the comparable session last year, generating an estimated $248 million and giving the summer a great start. During the same weekend last year, “Thor” opened with $65.7 million and the weekend total was $166.5 million.
Indications of the blowout frame began brewing when Fandango reported that more than 1,000 show times were sold out in advance of Friday’s opening and that ticket sales were outperforming all previous Marvel titles, including “Spiderman” and all “Avengers”-related films, as well as last summer’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” In polling done in April, “Avengers” was the most anticipated film of the summer.
The superhero team-up grossed $80.5 million on Friday, marking the second biggest single day ever, behind “Deathly Hallows Part II” with $91.1 million. On Saturday “Avengers” pulled in a huge $69.7 million, which now stands as the biggest Saturday of all time. In addition, the opening weekend for “Avengers” has surpassed the total domestic cumes of “Captain America” and “Thor.”
The PG-13 rated “Avengers” brings together in one film the iconic Marvel figures of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Nick Fury. It also assembles a starry line-up: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is based on the Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” which was first published in 1963.
The opening has provided an amazing start indeed to the relationship between Disney and Marvel as the first Marvel title ever distributed by Disney. The action sci-fi adventure is clearly a four-quadrant film, pulling in everyone from every demographic across the board. With a reported production budget of $220 million, “Avengers” is already in the black – a rare event in the world of high cost tentpole pictures.
“The Avengers” was given the thumbs-up by both audiences and critics, with moviegoers giving the picture a rare A+ CinemaScore, which all but guarantees excellent word of mouth, and 94% of critics gave the film a positive nod, according to RottenTomatoes.com. (Metacritic is a more reserved 69%.)
Midnight previews for “Avengers” grossed $18.7 million, which was the eighth-highest ever for midnight screenings, but was obviously not an indicator of the audience’s true interest in the film as demonstrated by performance of the film over the course of the whole weekend.