Monday, May 7, 2012

The Avengers smash box office records

The New York Times reports: The superhero team in Marvel’s The Avengers took in about $200.3 million at North American theaters over the weekend, according to Walt Disney Studios, which released the film. That No. 1 result easily smashed what the movie industry considers the record, set last summer by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, for the biggest opening weekend of all time. Its total was $169.2 million if you don’t account for inflation, or about $172 million if you do.

The Avengers — about a star squad of Marvel superheroes, including Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Black Widow — is now on track to take in over $1 billion at the global box office, analysts estimate. This 3-D picture, directed by Joss Whedon (until now best known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer), has already sold about $441.5 million in tickets overseas and has yet to open in important markets like Japan.

“I’m running low on double takes,” Dave Hollis, executive vice president for distribution at Disney, said on Sunday morning. “As the numbers came in, we kept thinking, ‘Can these numbers possibly be right?’ ”

Marvel Studios, a division of the Walt Disney Company, spent about $220 million to make the film and at least another $100 million on global marketing. The film played at 4,349 locations in North America, and 52% of its domestic ticket sales came from 3-D showings, which cost $3 to $5 more than standard screenings.

Several factors contributed to the enormous audience interest in The Avengers, starting with its quality. The movie, stuffed to the brim with special effects, has been popular with most critics, with the review-aggregation site rating it at 94% on the “fresh” scale. Audiences in exit polls gave the film a rare A-plus score, an indication that word-of-mouth was strong. The Hulk, played this time by Mark Ruffalo, has received particularly high marks.

“People come to the movies to see giant spectacles, but what really makes the difference is over-delivering on expectations,” said Kevin Feige, a producer of The Avengers and president of Marvel Studios. “Maybe it’s delivering a movie that is funnier than people expected or one that moves them a little bit more than they expected. Joss has accomplished that.”

Marvel also expertly orchestrated one of the longest marketing teases in Hollywood history. The studio planted the seeds for an all-star Avengers movie in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr. Then a thunder god with a magic hammer, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), got his own movie, followed by Captain America (Chris Evans). Iron Man arrived with a sequel. All were worldwide hits.

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