'Avengers: Age of Ultron' expected to conquer box office

#boxoffice forecast: @Avengers 'Age of Ultron' expected to soar with about $200 million at domestic launch

After setting records overseas, Walt Disney's Marvel "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is poised to dominate the domestic box office with an anticipated opening of about $200 million.

The Joss Whedon-directed superhero sequel, which cost $250 million to make, could pull in anywhere between $190 million and $230 million, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. Most tracking estimates suggest the sequel will launch with a figure somewhere in the middle of that range.

"The Avengers" became the biggest domestic debut ever with a $207.4-million opening in May 2012. It went on to make $1.5 billion worldwide. The film surpassed the $169.2-million record set during the opening weekend of 2011's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2." Marvel's "Iron Man 3" became the second-best opening in box office history in 2013 when it launched with $175.3 million.

The film follows superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as they battle against technological villain Ultron (James Spader).

Disney said the sequel has made $255.4 million overseas since its rollout on April 22.

Last weekend, it was the No. 1 movie in all territories that it opened in, including France, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, South Korea, Argentina and Brazil.

“Age of Ultron” also set an Imax box office record for the largest non-China international opening of all time with a per-screen average of $60,000 in ticket sales. It will open in Mexico, Spain, and several additional markets on Thursday.

Movie ticketing websites and exhibitors are already seeing robust pre-sale numbers and enthusiasm from moviegoers. The film, which will be released in 4,276 theaters, kicks off Thursday, with evening showings beginning at 7 p.m.

Fandango said the film is responsible for more than 95% of this weekend’s ticket sales on its website, selling out hundreds of showtimes at theaters across the country and garnering the highest score possible (100 out of 100 points) on its "fanticipation" meter.

MovieTickets.com reported on Tuesday that North American advance ticket sales for the sequel are 3.7 times greater than the 2012 release of “The Avengers” at the same point in the sales cycle of each respective film. An estimated 84% of all tickets sold on Monday were from moviegoers wanting to see the Avengers assemble again.

AMC Entertainment, owner of the nation's second-largest theater chain, said the film has sold out dozens of night shows already. The theater also sold out its "Marvel Marathon" (28 straight hours of Marvel films) showings, available at four locations.

"Marvel has really found a way to continue to stay ahead of really high expectations from consumers," Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution, said Sunday. "And the films leave people feeling overwhelmingly satisfied in their trip to the movie theater."

Like its predecessor, "Age of Ultron" will likely draw in a wide range of moviegoers, skewing male. "Avengers" earned a perfect grade of A+ on audience polling firm CinemaScore. It appealed to both young and old moviegoers, with about 50% of audiences over the age of 25. An estimated 60% of audiences were male. 

The film's debut marks the start of the highly anticipated summer season. The industry experienced one of its worst summers in 2014, grossing about $4.05 billion, compared with $4.75 billion in 2013. Even more telling, no film crossed the $300-million mark domestically for the first time since 2001.

However, analysts have said this summer will likely set records with a robust lineup that includes action films such as "Jurassic World," "Terminator: Genisys," "Ant-Man," "Fantastic Four" and female-driven flicks such as "Pitch Perfect 2," "Spy," "Magic Mike XXL" and "Paper Towns." A successful summer will likely help the box office climb to $11.2 billion this year.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h on Twitter.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

10:16 a.m., April 30: This post has been updated with newer international figures for "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

This post was originally published at 3:11 p.m. on April 29.

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