“Avengers: Age of Ultron” proved its box-office might with an estimated $191.3-million launch in the U.S. and Canada -- the second-best domestic opening weekend ever -- but may have fallen short of No. 1 because of a boxing match.
Going into the weekend, the Disney Studios/Marvel film, which cost $250 million to make, had been tracking to debut between $190 million and $230 million, giving it decent odds at breaking the $207.4-million record set by “The Avengers” in 2012.
The studio, however, adjusted its expectations on Saturday evening given several major competing events, including the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao "fight of the century” in Las Vegas that kept some potential moviegoers in front of TV sets instead.
“Between the boxing match, NHL and NBA playoffs, the Kentucky Derby ... looks like folks were distracted,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution. “But the second-biggest opening in history of movie business is something to be proud of and also just the beginning of what we expect to be a spectacular run.”
“Age of Ultron” is the biggest debut for a sequel, coming in ahead of the $174.1-million opening weekend for “Iron Man 3” in May 2013. If “Age of Ultron” can get fans who missed opening weekend to turn out at theaters in Week 2, the film has a shot of duplicating the success of the first “Avengers" installment, which went on to make $1.5 billion worldwide.
Directed by Joss Whedon, “Age of Ultron” 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). Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson also star in the film as twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.
Like its predecessor, "Age of Ultron" drew in a range of moviegoers, though they did skew male (59%). The addition of Olsen, another woman on the Avengers roster, likely helped fuel more females to check out the film in theaters. By comparison, an estimated 60% of audiences were male for the first Avengers film.
The film also appealed to young and old, with about 59% of the audience older than 25.
The broad demographic suggests there is widespread appeal, Hollis said.
“That’s the goal when you are building something that’s meant to be as big as this,” he said.
The film’s $84.5-million gross on Friday made it second to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” as the biggest single day in box-office history. Powered by an A rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore, the "Avengers" sequel is expected to continue to do well.
Disney said “Age of Ultron” has made about $439.8 million in overseas markets since its rollout on April 22, bringing the film’s total global haul to about $631.1 million.
It was the No. 1 movie in every market in which it opened, including France, Italy, Germany, Britain, Australia, South Korea, Argentina and Brazil. The film is scheduled to open in China on May 12 and in Japan on July 4.
“Age of Ultron” also set an Imax box-office record for the largest international opening of all time, excluding China. “Ultron” scored $25.2 million in Imax theaters and propelled the company to its first $30-million-plus weekend.
“There seems to be a connection we have with moviegoers, especially fan-boys,” said Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax Entertainment.”Imax is something they respond to, they like the spectacle of it all. That’s a big part of the impetus of these results, which obviously we are really excited about.”
Hollis noted that premium formats, including 3D and Imax, help give moviegoers a “richer experience.”
Back in the U.S. and Canada, Lionsgate’s “Age of Adeline” came in second with $6.3 million. The film, which stars Blake Lively, has made $23.4 million domestically to date.
“Furious 7” came in at third, adding $6.1 million in its fifth weekend and raising its domestic haul to $330.5 million. Universal Pictures reported the film has made $1.4 billion worldwide, making it the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time worldwide, behind “Avatar” ($2.8 billion), “Titanic” ($2.2 billion) and “The Avengers.”
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” finished the weekend in fourth, adding $5.6 million. The comedy sequel has made $51.2 million in the U.S. and Canada to date.
DreamWorks Animation’s “Home,” released by 20th Century Fox, rounded out the top five with $3.3 million. The animated film has made $158.1 million domestically.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s “Far From the Maddening Crowd” earned $172,000 in just 10 locationa, for a strong per-theater average of $17,200. The film, based on the book by Thomas Hardy, stars Carey Mulligan as the independent and beautiful Bathsheba Everdene, who attracts three very different suitors. Next weekend, Fox Searchlight will add 19 new markets.
A24’s “Ex Machina” drew $2.2 million after expanding to 24 more theaters. The highly acclaimed film, which finished at No. 7 this weekend, has made $10.9 million to date.
Year-to-date, the box office is up 5.6%, according to research firm Rentrak. The weekend’s total haul is up an estimated 46% from the same time last year, when “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” debuted with $91.6 million.
“Age of Ultron” marks the start of the 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.
Analysts have said this summer will likely see records with a robust lineup that includes action films such as "Jurassic World," "Terminator: Genisys," "Ant-Man" and "Fantastic Four," as well as female-driven flicks such as "Pitch Perfect 2," "Spy," "Magic Mike XXL" and "Paper Towns." A successful summer could help the box office climb above $11 billion for the year.
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