“Avengers: Age of Ultron” has a very good shot at topping the record $207.4 million opening of Disney and Marvel’s blockbuster original when it debuts on May 1.
That would be an explosive opening to the 2015 summer movie season, and initial tracking numbers that came online Thursday had “Age of Ultron” at between $190 million and $200 million. It’s the first in a string of blockbuster sequels including new “Mission Impossible,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Terminator” movies that are expected to drive a record summer and, ultimately, the biggest box office year ever.
There are no guarantees because pre-release tracking, largely based on test screenings and surveys, tends to get less accurate as the numbers increase. But online ticketing service Fandango reports that “advance tickets sales are through the roof,” an assertion echoed by MovieTickets.com, which says that the film is pre-selling at a rate six times greater than the first “Avengers” at the same point in the sales cycle.
Tracking has been off significantly on several big films this year, including “American Sniper,” “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Furious 7.” The good news for Disney is that in each of those cases, the openings exceeded the tracking.
Regardless of how high it goes, there’s little argument that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will become Marvel’s 11th consecutive film to debut at No. 1. The other studios have cleared out and it will be the only wide release on the first weekend of Hollywood’s summer season. (And you’re excused if last weekend’s $147 million opening by “Furious 7” made you think it was already here.)
Joss Whedon returns as writer and director for “Age of Ultron,” as does the ensemble cast topped by Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye). Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen join the cast as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.
Don Cheadle, James Spader and Samuel Jackson co-star in “Age of Ultron,” in which Earth’s mightiest heroes take on the eponymous Tony Stark AI program gone rogue.
The first “Avengers” came on tracking at $120 million and rose to $160 million ahead of its debut on May 4 in 2012. It became clear it would blow past that when it took in $80 million on its first day, the second-biggest Friday gross ever, behind only the $91 million rung up by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 2011. Then it set single-day records with $69.5 million Saturday and $57 million Sunday and went on to the richest three-day debut in Hollywood history.
“The Avengers” eventually brought in $1.51 billion globally, the third-highest box-office total ever, behind two James Cameron films, “Avatar” ($2.78 billion) and “Titanic” ($2.18 billion).
Those are big numbers and so is the reportedly $250 million production budget of “Age of Ultron,” which is produced by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. It’s a high-stakes game, but the payoff from the success of “The Avengers” has been massive for Disney, which now has several successful interwoven Marvel film franchises and countless marketing and licensing opportunities..
Two additional sequels, “Avengers: Infinity War Part 1” and “Avengers: Infinity War Part 2,” are scheduled for release on May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019, respectively. And the franchise became the cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a strategic plan designed to maximize the potential of the Marvel Comic-based superheroes via TV shows and movie sequels, spin-offs and original films, like last summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,”
There are 12 Marvel films on the schedule through 2019, including “Ant-Man” later this year; “Captain America: Civil War” and “Doctor Strange” in 2016; and a new Spider-Man movie (produced by Sony), “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” in 2017. The third “Avengers” movie, “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” arrive in 2018, followed by the final “Avengers” and”Inhumans” in 2019.
“The Avengers'” success also provided huge momentum for subsequent Marvel films featuring the heroes. “Iron Man 3” played more like an Avengers sequel, posting the second-biggest opening weekend ever with $174 million in 2013 and going on to $1.2 billion worldwide. “Thor: The Dark World” grossed $206 million in 2013, a 23-percent increase over the original “Thor.” And in 2014, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” grossed $270 million worldwide, 32 percent more than its predecessor.
That burgeoning momentum is as big a reason as tracking to think that the “Age of Ultron” will be the highest-grossing Marvel movie yet.