Box Office: Age Of Ultron Scores 2nd Highest Debut Of All Time, Falls Short Of Avengers Opening

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Last Saturday proved to be a microcosm of what can occur when counter-programming outside of the theatrical experience can disrupt theater attendance. May 2nd had such viewing activities as the NFL Draft, NBA and NHL playoffs, the Kentucky Derby and of course the prime-time telecast of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. It was never a question of if The Avengers: Age of Ultron would finish first, the question was how well it would do. In my column last week I estimated that it would finish no more than $165 million. I was wrong with my guess as it opened domestically with $187.6 million. A strong opening but 2012’s The Avengers grossed $207 million in its first weekend.

With superheroes being a mainstream staple in cinemas, a far cry from misfires like Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher and Captain America in the early ’90s, it means that comic book movies (CBMs) have replaced action movies to a degree. But eventually CBMs will bust as audiences will grow tired. At least one would think. Age of Ultron was the first of three CBMs set to open this summer (followed by Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot). Next year, superhero movies increase to at least nine titles (if counting the Power Rangers), and 2017-2019 will see 16 more titles from Marvel and DC Comics.

The good news for Disney is that Age of Ultron is making money. Lots of money. But there is a huge disparity in performance at home versus performance abroad. Globally, the movie has made $626,656,000 – $439 million coming internationally. Its bow overseas a week early shows a 70-30 percentage in performance. Nevertheless, the CBM is most assuredly on pace to crack $1 billion in the near future. Now whether or not it will match or surpass the $1.5 billion of The Avengers is another story. Should Age of Ultron accomplish this it will become the third highest-grossing film of all time. Currently in fourth is this year’s Furious 7. That’s right. The seventh installment in the F&F franchise recently passed the final Harry Potter film to claim the fourth spot.

Not helping Age of Ultron is how it was perceived by critics. The adage that “critics don’t matter” is a weak argument, because it is easy for fans to overlook the faults. I will say isn’t the massive movie failure that some at Inside Pulse have made it out to be (expect my rebuttal review in the near future), but it is evident that something happened in the editing room. Writer/director Joss Whedon’s original cut was three hours and the finished product was two hours and twenty-one minutes. It looks like the version we got was The Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Producer Cut. Marvel Studios’ producer Kevin Feige may not be notorious like Harvey Weinstein when it comes to cutting films, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a hand in making judicious cuts to the film, which allowed subplots to go nowhere and took out characters completely (the mysterious woman as seen in the trailer, for example).

With Age of Ultron accounting for 82% of the total weekend box office, it meant the rest of releases had to just take what it could get. Furious 7, which held the top spot for several weeks, dropped two positions. Still, Universal was smart to release it in April, away from The Avengers. Lionsgate’s Age of Adaline leap-frogged to second place while Paul Blart 2 dropped hard in its third week.

Of particular interest is Disney’s Cinderella. Now eight weeks since its release, last week it dropped out of the top ten (finishing in twelfth place) but this week it is back in the list finishing in sixth. That’s a positive shift in performance unlike A24’s Ex Machina. Last week in wide release it cracked the top five. With expansion this week and the performance of Age of Ultron, this other tale of artificial intelligence dropped three spots and finished with $2.2 million. But it is on pace to become the studio’s best performer in the U.S. since Spring Breakers.

In limited release, Kristen Wiig’s Welcome to Me scored $38,000 from two screens ($19k per screen average). Fox Searchlight’s Far From the Madding Crowd took $172k from 10 screens.

On tap for the weekend is the Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit. Just as long as it isn’t bad as The Bounty Hunter it should get a good turnout by female audiences. But Age of Ultron will repeat as number one.

Full top ten below.

01. The Avengers: Age of Ultron — $187,656,000
02. The Age of Adaline — $6,250,000 ($23,424,000)
03. Furious 7 — $6,114,000 ($330,539,000)
04. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 — $5,550,000 ($51,186,000)
05. Home — $3,300,000 ($158,132,000)
06. Cinderella — $2,357,000 ($193,651,000)
07. Ex Machina — $2,231,000 ($10,868,000)
08. Unfriended — $1,988,000 ($28,531,000)
09. The Longest Ride — $1,700,000 ($33,240,000)
10. Woman in Gold — $1,681,000 ($24,588,000)

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