Yesterday I wrote that in terms of opening-weekend ticket sales, it was a likely tossup between Joss Whedon / Chris Evans' The Avengers, Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale's The Dark Knight, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3. What a difference 24 hours make.
According to weekend box office actuals, The Avengers earned $207.43 million in North America. That's $7 million above Sunday estimates, which had already made it clear that the Marvel / Disney release had smashed David Yates / Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2's previous box office record: $169.2 million earned last summer.
The Grand Hotel of superhero movies may also have sold more tickets than any other movie in North American opening-weekend box office history.
Taking inflation into account, The Dark Knight would have earned $172-175 million and Spider-Man 3 $171-$174 million in 2012 dollars, depending on average domestic ticket prices for this second quarter. In other words, still well behind The Avengers' box office take.
Now, which movie sold more tickets? Well, if 3D surcharges are taken into account -- 52 percent of The Avengers' grosses came from 3D screenings -- and are thus deducted from the total (about 30 percent), The Avengers' box office gross goes down to approximately $181m. Definitely still ahead of both The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3. In fact, even when considering IMAX surcharges -- The Dark Knight was screened at 94 IMAX theaters vs. The Avengers' 275, which earned an estimated $15 million -- Whedon's superhero movie likely sold more tickets.
The only way The Dark Knight could remain ahead of The Avengers is if the average movie ticket cost for the second quarter of 2012 turns out to be quite a bit higher than the first quarter's average. The National Theater Owners Association should release average domestic movie-ticket costs for the April-June quarter some time in July.
Unfortunately, Hollywood studios refuse to come up with (or to divulge) official figures for ticket sales. Really, how else could studios herald a new record-breaking release every year or so? Though, admittedly, in the case of The Avengers this kind of subterfuge may not have been at all necessary.
In addition to The Avengers, The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man 3, also on the inflation adjusted (but not taking IMAX/3D into account) top-ten opening-weekend domestic box office list are Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (approx. $164 million), the original Spider-Man ($157 million), Jennifer Lawrence / Liam Hemsworth / Josh Hutcherson's The Hunger Games ($152.5 million), and Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($151 million) and Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138 million).
Officially budgeted at $220m (not including another $100m+ in marketing / distribution expenses), The Avengers features Captain America: The First Avenger's Chris Evans as Captain America, Sherlock Holmes' Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, The Kids Are All Right'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.
Captain America / Chris Evans / The Avengers movie photo: Zade Rosenthal / Walt Disney Studios.
Source: Box Office Mojo