Barring a huge surge on Saturday and Sunday matinees, The Avengers will not be breaking any box office records in North America. Even if one chooses to ignore inflation, the Joss Whedon-directed Marvel / Walt Disney release is expected to remain behind David Yates / Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 both on opening day Friday and for the weekend as a whole.
The Avengers is expected to collect around $70 million at 4,349 locations on Friday (including $18.7 million from Thursday midnight screenings), according to Deadline.com. If that's correct, The Avengers will land behind not only Deathly Hallows 2 ($91.07 million), but also Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72.7m) and Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($71.64 million), both starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner. Note that unlike Deathly Hallows 2 and The Avengers, the two Twilight movies did not have the advantage of box-office-boosting 3D surcharges. [Update: The Avengers collected an estimated $80.5m. Working on a follow-up post.]
As per Deadline's sources, The Avengers is expected to gross $160m over the weekend, behind only Deathly Hallows 2's $169.18m. Well, that is, if you choose to ignore inflation. Else, The Avengers would be down one or two (or more) slots.
And if you apply the true measure of a movie's box office appeal — ticket sales — The Avengers may fall behind a few other titles as well once 3D/IMAX surcharges are taken into account. I'll write a follow-up post on that once official studio estimates are announced on Saturday.
The Avengers features Captain America: The First Avenger's Chris Evans as Captain America, Sherlock Holmes' Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Shutter Island's Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2's Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, and Snow White and the Huntsman's Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
Also: The Bourne Legacy's Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, The Deep Blue Sea's Tom Hiddleston as Loki, The Storm Awaits' Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Pulp Fiction's Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Shakespeare in Love's Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and Much Ado About Nothing's Clark Gregg as agent Phil Coulson.
And finally: Stellan Skarsgård, Powers Boothe, Alexis Denisof, veteran Jenny Agutter (Walkabout / Logan's Run), and Deep End director / Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water screenwriter Jerzy Skolimowski, in addition to the voices of Paul Bettany and Lou Ferrigno.
In other box office news, Think Like a Man earned an estimated $2.6 million at no. 2 on Friday and should reach $8 million by Sunday evening. The comedy features Jerry Ferrara, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, and Taraji P. Henson.
At no. 3, Gary Ross' The Hunger Games added $1.9 million on Friday and is expected to rake in $6.7 million over the weekend. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth star. (It's kinda curious that both Hemsworth brothers have mega 2012 box office blockbusters.)
Rounding out the top six on Friday were Zac Efron / Taylor Schilling's romantic drama The Lucky One and Jason Segel / Emily Blunt's comedy The Five-Year Engagement, each with $1.8m. They were followed by the animated Pirates! Band of Misfits with $1.4 million ($5.9 million for the weekend).
Of the three, Pirates! is expected to come out on top when weekend figures are announced (kiddie flicks perform better on the weekend proper). Next should be The Five-Year Engagement and then The Lucky One. None of the three is expected to earn more than $6m.
Remember, the above figures are early, rough estimates. Official Friday estimates will be announced on Saturday, and weekend estimates on Sunday. Box-office actuals come out on Monday.
Chris Evans / The Avengers photo: Zade Rosenthal / Walt Disney Studios.