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Box-Office Spotlight: The Avengers

Dear WOKJ readers,

I am back with another issue of “Box-Office Spotlight“, this time taking a look at the box-office potential of this summer’s first box-office behemoth The Avengers. Previous entries in this series include The Hunger Games and American Reunion.

Just to say it right away –there is no doubt whatsoever that it will be huge. With the last two movies that “Box-Office Spotlight” analyzed there was still an air of uncertainty concerning their potential performances. They could have gone either way (and they did with The Hunger Games just exploding and American Reunion disappointing). The Avengers has been set to become a huge hit ever since Iron Man went on to gross over $318 million at the domestic box-office. Given Iron Man’s presence in the film and how beloved the character is – that alone guaranteed The Avengers a $300+ million total. The question was how far beyond that can it go.

Of course a lot depended on how the other vital characters would be received in their standalone films. Luckily for Marvel, all four following films were received with good reviews and at least solid word-of-mouth. The critically worst-received of the bunch, The Incredible Hulk, still garnered 66% at, with Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor all landing in the 74-79% range. The Incredible Hulk was also the worst box-office performer of the five Avenger films with a domestic total of around $13 million. However, it must be noted that it came with the baggage of a predecessor that was heavily disliked (Ang Lee’s Hulk). In retrospect, the only disappointing Avenge film is generally considered to be Iron Man 2 which, in spite of most expectations, failed to outgross the first film, but still gathered a giant $312 million total in North America. The most disappointing aspect of its run were the legs, though with the film failing to break an opening-to-total multiplier of 2.5, whereas the first Iron Man made it past 3. Iron Man 2 destroyed some of the goodwill towards the series.

However, a year later, in 2011, two Avenger films more than made up for that. Thor ($181 million) and Captain America ($176.7 million) both enjoyed good word-of-mouth and fully lived up to the expectations towards their box-office performances. Moreover, given the typical frontloadness of the genre, the two boasted decent legs. To sum up, here are the numbers for the standalone Avenger films to date:

Iron Man - $98,618,668 opening / $318,412,101 total
The Incredible Hulk - $55,414,050 opening / $134,806,913 total
Iron Man 2 - $128,122,480 opening / $312,433,331 total
Thor - $65,723,338 opening / $181,030,624 total
Captain America: The First Avenger - $65,058,524 opening / $176,654,505 total

It should be noted that the last two films also had a 3D premium boost, whereas Iron Man 2 and Thor also had IMAX screens. The Avengers will have both as well and is currently set to open on 3,364 3D screens and 275 IMAX screens. Given the fact that last year’s Avenger films have been well-liked and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is still a beloved figure despite the disappointment that was Iron Man 2, there is absolutely no reason to assume that The Avengers will open any lower than $128.1 million that Iron Man 2 managed in 2010. But how much higher will it go?

Well, the presales say that it will be much higher. A week ago, the presales for The Avengers (according to were about 50% higher than the presales for the past Avenger-standalone films combined at the same point before the release. To be exact, it was 1,034% ahead of Thor, 3,995% ahead of Captain America, 1,405% ahead of Iron Man and 114% ahead of Iron Man 2. At the same time, the presales are still nowhere as strong as for the strong fanboy/fangirl driven films like Revenge of the Sith, The Hunger Games or Twilight. It doesn’t mean much, though. Marvel films have never been strong performers in midnight showings or in presales. Remember, Iron Man 2 made $7.5 million in midnights before opening to $128 million and Spider-Man 3 mustered approximately $10 million before its record $151 million opening. Any midnight showings number above $12 million would be just amazing for The Avengers.

With two years of inflation and the 3D premium that Iron Man 2 didn’t have, there is no doubt that the opening weekend will be above $140 million. There is strong interest in IMAX 3D for this film as 37% of the presales are for IMAX 3D tickets and over half of the presales are for the 3D version of the movie. There will be a significant boost through that.

Another factor is the release date. The first weekend of May has traditionally been the opening weekend of the summer box-office season and the weekend when records were broken. In 2002 Spider-Man set the opening weekend record on that weekend with $114.8 million. Five years later, Spider-Man 3 unseated Dead Man’s Chest’s opening record with $151.1 million. The first two Iron Man films opened on that weekend as well- both with terrific results. The main reason why the huge blockbusters perform that well in this very spot is simple – they usually open in an empty marketplace. That obviously wasn’t the case last year when Thor opened just a week after Fast Five’s monstrous $86 million start. This year, however, the last weekend of April was weak with not a single opening movie making more than $12 million. When The Avengers opens next weekend there very well might be not a single other movie in the Top 10 making $10 million or more. The Avengers, a must-see event by itself already, will be pretty much the only option for most moviegoers. It needs to be kept in mind that audiences are also starving for a large-scale action blockbuster. The last movie to fall into that category was Wrath of the Titans at the end of March and it opened to disappointing numbers. There hasn’t been a successful big action blockbuster ever since Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in December. The Avengers will fill the void.

Last but not least, The movie is an immense crowd pleaser which should ensure that it wont go the way of Iron Man 2 and end up with a sub-par multiplier. The reviews for The Avengers are very much on par with the first Iron Man film, coming in at 94% at RottenTomatoes at the moment. The word is spreading already as the movie hit most overseas markets last week (where it is outpacing Iron Man and Iron Man 2 by huge margins with $260.5 million in the bank already). It will have some stiff competition coming from Dark Shadows, Battleship and Men in Black 3, but none of these films should be as crowd pleasing as this film.

The Avengers is an event movie that hasn’t been attempted before on this scale. That alone will ignite curiosity among moviegoers. Combine that with great reviews, successful predecessors, 3D and terrific marketing my Paramount and we might just have the year’s first $400 million grosser on our hands.


My prediction:

Opening Weekend – $150-160 million

Total Gross – $405-425 million

Box-Office Spotlight will be back with its take on The Dark Knight Rises later this summer.

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