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Box Office: 'Avengers' has top U.S. debut ever with $200.3 million

May 6, 2012 |  9:55 am

Chris Hemsworth as Thor, left, and Chris Evans as Captain America in "The Avengers."

This post has been updated. Please see the note at the bottom.

After breaking box-office records overseas, "The Avengers" has conquered America.

The superhero action flick featuring Marvel superheroes such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America had the biggest opening weekend of all time in the U.S. and Canada this weekend — not adjusted for inflation — grossing a powerful $200.3 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios.

Heading into the weekend, pre-release audience surveys indicated the 3-D film would have a massive domestic opening of at least $150 million, giving it one of the top five highest U.S. debuts ever. Instead, the movie soared beyond expectations, easily surpassing the $169.2 million 2011 debut of previous record-holder "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2." The picture also raked in more money in its first three days than strong performers such as "The Dark Knight," "The Hunger Games" and "Spider-Man 3," all of which collected over $150 million upon their debuts.

PHOTOS: The billion-dollar box office club

The movie appealed to a wide swath of moviegoers; half the audience was under the age of 25, and 60% of the crowd was male. About 52% of those who saw the movie opted to shell out a few extra bucks to watch it in 3-D.

The film also had a phenomenal weekend overseas, where it opened in many foreign countries roughly a week ago. Playing in 52 international markets, the movie collected $151.5 million this weekend, raising its total abroad to $441.5 million. That means that after just two weeks in release, "The Avengers" has already sold $641.8 million worth of tickets at the global box office.

In the U.S., "The Avengers" began its ascent to the top of the box-office charts in the early hours Friday, when the movie scored $18.7 million from post-midnight screenings. Over the course of the day, the movie raked in $80.5 million — giving it the second-biggest opening day of all time, behind only last year's eighth and final "Harry Potter."

As if the news weren't already positive enough for Marvel and parent company Disney, moviegoers loved the film, assigning it a perfect average grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That score indicates that the movie will generate excellent word of mouth in the weeks to come, helping to propel the movie into the billion-dollar club at the worldwide box office — an elite group that only 11 films, led by James Cameron's "Avatar" and "Titanic," currently belong to.

PHOTOS: 'The Avengers' Hollywood premiere

Disney's decision to open the film overseas before it hit U.S. theaters helped to turn the movie's debut into a worldwide event. Indeed, many Hollywood studios are increasingly beginning to open movies abroad first in an effort to capitalize on international ticket sales, which often account for the majority of the overall gross on big-budget event films.

"We had 70% of the international business open a week ago, and coming out of that space with such strong grosses signaled that this was not just a fan movie — not just a guy movie — but a movie for everyone," said Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president of distribution. "The international openings definitely helped to create some of the fervor we're ultimately witnessing."

To help promote "The Avengers" internationally, Disney rolled out the red carpet at premieres in Rome, Beijing, London and Moscow. So far, "The Avengers" has performed best in locations such as the United Kingdom, Mexico and Australia. This weekend, the movie debuted with about $17 million in both China and Russia, where the film is expected to be especially popular because local moviegoers typically embrace special-effects-driven fare.

"The Avengers," which brings together an international peacekeeping agency of superheroes to help protect the world from disaster, has already grossed more worldwide than any of Marvel's previous pictures, including "Iron Man 2," which sold $623.9 million worth of tickets in 2010. The Joss Whedon-directed film, headlined by a slew of A-list stars including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, also earned the best critical reviews since 2008's "Iron Man," notching a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Marvel and Disney spent roughly $220 million to produce “The Avengers.” That’s by far the biggest budget yet for the famously thrifty Marvel, whose most expensive project to date has been 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” which was made for about $170 million. “The Avengers” cost more to produce because it had a star-studded cast whose characters — one of them a digitally created green giant, another wearing a high-tech suit of armor — required a variety of special effects.

“The Avengers” is the first Marvel film that is being marketed and released by Disney, which in 2010 bought the rights to Marvel's remaining two movie projects in its six-picture distribution deal with Paramount Pictures. Paramount had only been earning a distribution fee on the Marvel titles, whereas Disney retains the majority of the films’ profits. 

The success of "The Avengers" is critical to Marvel's parent Disney, which desperately needed some good news and a financial windfall following the studio's $200-million write-down on "John Carter" — one of the biggest losses of all time — and the ousting of movie chairman Rich Ross.

[Updated, 12:57 p.m. May 6: "The Avengers played especially well in IMAX, which ran out of seats to sell to moviegoers. IMAX screenings accounted for $15 million of the overall gross from 275 theaters, and 17 of the top 20 theaters for "The Avengers" this weekend were IMAX locations. Overseas, $6.1 million worth of ticket sales came from IMAX screens.

Here are the Top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international results when available, according to studio estimates:

1. "The Avengers" (Disney): Opened with $200.3 million. $151.5 million overseas in 52 foreign markets. International total: $441.5 million.
2. "Think Like a Man" (Sony): $8 million on its third weekend, down 55%. Domestic total: $73 million.
3. "The Hunger Games" (Lionsgate): $5.7 million on its seventh weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $380.7 million.
4. "The Lucky One" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $5.5 million on its third weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $47.9 million. $5.5 million overseas in 27 foreign markets. International total: $18 million.
5. "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" (Sony): $5.4 million on its second weekend, down 52%. Domestic total: $18.6 million. $2.8 million overseas in 51 foreign markets. International total: $70.4 million.
6. "The Five-Year Engagement" (Universal/Relativity): $5.1 million on its second weekend, down 52%. Domestic total: $19.2 million. $2.3 million overseas in three foreign markets. International total: $2.3 million. 
7. "The Raven" (Relativity/Intrepid): $2.5 million on its second weekend, down 66%. Domestic total: $12 million.
8. "Safe" (Lionsgate/IM Global): $2.5 million on its second weekend, down 69%. Domestic total: $12.9 million.
9. "Chimpanzee" (Disney): $2.4 million on its third weekend, down 54%. Domestic total: $23 million.
10. "The Three Stooges" (Fox): $1.8 million on its fourth weekend, down 65%. Domestic total: $39.6 million.]

RELATED:

"Avengers" conquer world, then turn to U.S.

Review: In "The Avengers," a Marvel-ous team

'Avengers' scores No. 2 opening day of all time with $80.5 million

— Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Chris Hemsworth, left, and Chris Evans star in "The Avengers." Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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