‘Thor: The Dark World’ Brings Down Box-Office Hammer Overseas Wednesday

Foreign rollout will show how big an “Avengers” bounce the Marvel sequel can expect ahead of its Nov. 8 U.S. debut

Just how mighty a box-office hammer “Thor: The Dark World” will wield will come into sharper focus starting Wednesday, when the Marvel superhero sequel rolls out in the U.K., France, Germany and 21 other foreign markets.

Expectations are high and overseas will be critical if Disney is to see the sort of returns it is hoping for on the big-budget follow-up to 2011’s “Thor.” Disney hasn’t released a production number for “Dark World,” which opens in North America on Nov. 8, but reports have it around $200 million. The original film cost $150 million to make and took in $450 million worldwide, with nearly 60 percent of that coming from abroad.

But “Thor” came out before “The Avengers,” and the success of that 2012 blockbuster changed the game for all that will follow in Disney and Marvel’s cinematic universe.

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Exhibit A would be “Iron Man 3,” which nearly doubled the global haul of its pre-“Avengers” predecessor with $1.2 billion earlier this year. It played more like a sequel to the Marvel superhero mash-up than “Iron Man 2,” and “Dark World” is expected to do the same.

No one expects Chris Hemsworth and “Thor: The Dark World” to match the numbers put up by Robert Downey’s Tony Stark, but early projections call for a U.S. opening north of $85 million. Analysts believe it will exceed the $180 million domestic total of “Thor” and could go as high as $650 million worldwide.

The studio has done all it can to tie “Dark World” to the No. 3 all-time box office earner (behind “Avatar” and “Titanic”), plastering its ads with the catch phrase “Return of an Avenger.”

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Disney has opted to go out overseas first, as it did with “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3,” both of which hit the U.S. with a ton of momentum built on foreign returns. “The Avengers” opened No. 1 in all 39 foreign markets in which it debuted, and had $178 million in the box-office bank before it opened in the U.S. “Iron Man 3” hit the U.S. after taking in $195 million in its first week abroad.

Momentum aside, foreign returns have become more important than the domestic box office for the bottom line of would-be blockbusters. And overseas audiences have embraced action- and effects-driven superhero adventures — particularly in 3D, which “Dark World” is — like never before.

But one challenge facing “Dark World” is Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”  The Jennifer Lawence sci-fi sequel opens in London on Nov. 11, and globally and in the U.S. on the Nov. 22 weekend, and that could limit its longer-term prospects.

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Joining Hemsworth in “Dark World” are Tom Hiddleston, who reprises his role as the bad brother Loki, the villain from the “Avengers,” and Natalie Portman, who returns as the Norse god’s  love Jane Foster. Newcomer Christopher Eccleston will play the baddie Malekith. In the past week, they’ve all hit splashy red carpets in London, Paris and Berlin for “Dark World.”

Alan Taylor, whose credits include TV’s “Game of Thrones,” is directing. He’s also been tapped to helm the upcoming “Terminator” reboot for Universal. Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus wrote the screenplay.

Early reviews have been very good; it’s at 83 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes.