With ticket presale records smashed around the globe, it feels like a guarantee that “Avengers: Endgame” will supplant “Avengers: Infinity War” as the biggest box office opening ever. But could it actually gross $1 billion in its opening weekend?
The fact that Marvel Studios’ titanic blockbuster even has a puncher’s chance of hitting this mark speaks to the overwhelming demand that it has generated. Last year, “Infinity War” broke new ground on how big a blockbuster could open to with a $257.6 million domestic opening and a $640 million global launch. Both of those records are expected to be left in the dust.
But reaching $1 billion would require “Endgame” to soar beyond even the sky-high expectations that box office analysts are projecting. First, the film’s domestic opening would likely have to exceed $300 million, which would be a 16% increase in grosses over what “Infinity War” made in its opening. For now, analysts are keeping relatively cautious, projecting a still-record $270 million start.
So how could “Avengers: Endgame” make the jump from $270 million to $300 million? Boxoffice Magazine analyst Shawn Robbins says that premium formats will play a major factor. Among the industry-record 4,600 screens that will present “Endgame” this weekend are more than 3,900 3D locations, 410 IMAX screens, 785 Premium Large Format screens and 250 D-Box/4D locations. The surcharge to see “Endgame” on any of these formats will give its weekend totals an extra boost.
“In many areas of the country, moviegoers pay twice as much for an IMAX, Dolby, or other PLF ticket as they do for a standard screen. As those continue selling out morning and late-night shows around the standard matinee and evening business, the probability of unprecedented box office sales increases,” said Robbins.
Another factor is the extra screenings that cinemas in major markets have made to answer the overwhelming demand. On Monday, AMC announced that 67 locations in top 10 markets will stay open at least overnight on Thursday with after-dark “Endgame” screenings, with 17 staying open for more than 72 hours. Likely only the most die-hard and desperate Marvel fans will want to see “Endgame” at 2 a.m. on Friday, but the creation of these extra screenings provides another source of revenue for the film that could push it to $300 million.
Finally, there’s the one factor that analysts can’t predict: the word of mouth. Reactions from the film’s premiere have been predictably enthusiastic, and in general, Marvel Studios knows how to satisfy both critics and audiences. But if “Endgame” provides an ending that leaves fans gushing and ensures weeks of water-cooler talk, it could trigger even further walk-up business from casual audiences.
The shocking ending to “Infinity War,” capped by Peter Parker’s heartbreaking death, became a cultural touchstone akin to the Red Wedding on “Game of Thrones.” The memes and fan theories that it spawned became such a social juggernaut that “Endgame” has barely had to promote itself beyond a trailer revealing its title, and a handful of additional trailers and TV spots with footage taken almost entirely from just the first 20 minutes of the film.
If “Endgame” provides an even bigger dose of catharsis for audiences — possibly through the expected exit for Chris Evans and Captain America — it will only cause walk-up sales on Saturday and Sunday to further surge.
This word of mouth will also be essential outside the U.S., where “Endgame” has also set presale records in major overseas markets. Presale totals in China have reached $90 million, blowing past the $65 million in presales for “Infinity War.” In the U.K., where the ticketing website for Vue crashed within minutes of tickets going on sale, analytics firm Applaudience projects that the film will break the country’s $63.7 million opening weekend record, set by “Spectre” in 2015.
If all of these countries see an opening weekend higher than “Infinity War,” a $1 billion opening will happen. The combined global opening total for “Infinity War” reached $830 million, including the $190 million made in China one week after its opening in all other major territories.
Unlike “Infinity War,” “Endgame” will release in China on the same weekend as the rest of the world. If we take that $830 million figure as a baseline, then a $300 million U.S. opening and a $250 million Chinese opening would push “Endgame” to $933 million. A U.K. opening of $71 million — roughly $30 million higher than “Infinity War” — would bring the total to $963 million and leave “Endgame” needing $37 million more than what “Infinity War” made from all other countries to hit that elusive $1 billion opening mark.
In other words, “Endgame” would have to set all-time opening weekend records in possibly dozens of countries. But if there’s any team that could do it, any cast of characters that could assemble literally hundreds of millions of moviegoers around the world in a single weekend, it’s the Avengers.
“It seems like an insane number. To get there, it requires a perfect storm: record capacity, strong word of mouth beyond opening night, and a high share of premium screen ticket sales,” said Robbins. “But this is about as four-quad as a film gets.”