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'The Avengers' Has Surpassed 'The Dark Knight'?

The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight

June 2 afternoon

The Avengers has surpassed The Dark Knight at the domestic box office, to become the no. 3 biggest hit ever in the U.S. and Canada. Or has it?

Joss Whedon's The Avengers added $5.65 million at the North American box office on Friday, June 1, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. That raised the action flick's domestic cume to $538.11 million. Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, The Dark Knight cumed at $533.3 million in 2008.

But which movie has sold more tickets, The Avengers or The Dark Knight? Looking at both films' totals, the obvious answer is The Dark Knight, which was shown at fewer IMAX houses, was not in 3D, and was released in 2008. In fact, even while ignoring IMAX and 3D surcharges, The Dark Knight's adjusted domestic box office take – to better reflect the actual number of tickets sold – would be $580 million. In other words, Nolan's second Batman film remains about $40 millionahead of The Avengers.

Day 29 Box Office: The Avengers vs. The Dark Knight

Now, The Avengers' hasn't ended its run. So, a fairer comparison would be The Avengers on Day 29 (June 1, 2012) vs. The Dark Knight on Day 29 (Aug. 15, 2008). Here it goes: on Day 29, The Avengers' cume stood at $538.11m; The Dark Knight's was $459.64 million. Adjusted for inflation, The Dark Knight's take goes up to approximately $501 million.

Now, if 3D screens accounted for 50 percent of the Avengers' domestic box office (the percentage was 52 percent on the first weekend), then after deducting the 3D surcharges (calculated at 30 percent above the cost of a 2D movie), The Avengers' box office take goes down to approximately $471 million – or about $30 million below The Dark Knight's.

Even if only one third of The Avengers' gross originated from 3D houses, the Marvel actioner would still be behind The Dark Knight's ticket sales: approx. $493 million vs. The Dark Knight's aforementioned $501 million during the same period.

And finally, bear in mind that The Dark Knight was screened at only 94 (costlier) IMAX houses, while The Avengers was screened at 275. The ratio is almost 1 to 3.

International Box Office: The Avengers the indisputable champion

Internationally, however, The Avengers is indisputably doing much better than The Dark Knight. The Avengers' international gross currently stands at $793.3m; The Dark Knight cumed at $468.57 million.

Up to May 27, The Avengers' top five international markets were the U.K. ($73.48 million), China ($70.1 million as of May 21), Mexico ($60.27 million), Brazil ($58.87 million), and South Korea ($51.51m).

The Avengers features Captain America: The First Avenger's Chris Evans as Captain America, two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr (Chaplin, Tropic Thunder) as Iron Man, Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right) as the Incredible Hulk, Match Point's Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, and Snow White and the Huntsman's Chris Hemsworth as Thor.

Also: two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town) as Hawkeye, The Deep Blue Sea's Tom Hiddleston as Loki, The Storm Awaits' Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Pulp Fiction Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) 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 addition to Christian Bale, The Dark Knight featured eventual Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Monique Gabriela Curnen, and Eric Roberts.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Bale, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Liam Neeson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20.

Chris Evans as Captain America / Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man / The Avengers picture: Zade Rosenthal / Walt Disney Studios.

The Dark Knight picture: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.

June 2 early morning

The Avengers Scarlett Johansson Joss Whedon
The Avengers: Scarlett Johansson, Joss Whedon

At no. 2 on Friday, Men in Black 3 took in an estimated $8.5 million and is expected to gross $29 million for the weekend at the North American box office. A cume of $112 million after 10 days – including a major holiday – for a movie that cost anywhere between $225m-$300 million is not good news at all for distributor Sony Pictures. As was the case with the two Taylor Kitsch domestic bombs, John Carter and Battleship, what will save – at least to a certain extent – Men in Black 3 is the international market. Also in the film's cast: Emma Thompson and Josh Brolin. [See also Box Office: 'Snow White' Movie Surpasses Expectations.]

At no. 3 according to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com, The Avengers raked in an estimated $6 million on Friday, for a weekend gross of $19 million. That means The Avengers ($532.46 million as of Thursday) surpassed Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale's The Dark Knight ($533.34m) at the domestic box office sometime on Friday – that is, if you choose to ignore inflation. And when it comes to ticket sales, The Avengers has surpassed The Dark Knight in case you also choose to ignore box-office-boosting 3D surcharges. More on that on Saturday, after official Friday estimates are released.

Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers stars Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner.

Rounding out the top six at the North American box office on Friday were Cameron Diaz / Jennifer Lopez's What to Expect When You're Expecting with $1.6 million (weekend: $4.8 million), Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator with $1.5 million (weekend $5 million), and Battleship with $1.4 million (weekend: $4.9m). Curiously, Lionsgate's What to Expect When You're Expecting is holding up slightly better than Universal's much more expensive Battleship, which was targeted to young males, considered by the studios to be their most important demographic group.

The Avengers picture: Zade Rosenthal / Walt Disney Studios.

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5 Comments to 'The Avengers' Has Surpassed 'The Dark Knight'?

  1. John

    The thing of it is is, in a couple of weeks “The Avengers” will pass “The Dark Knight” in ticket sales. Can't wait.

  2. zac


    I'm neither a “Dark Knight” fanatic nor a “The Avengers” hater. I'm not 12 years old. I'm an adult, and not a demented one who becomes enraged when his/her favorite movie, soccer team, singer, athlete, religious idol, etc etc. gets surpassed or supplanted by another.

    If memory serves me right, the US economy was already fast on its way down in August 2008. Unemployment was at 6.1%. In April 2012, it was 8.2%. A 2.1% difference cannot be accounted for when it comes to something like box-office receipts.

    Look at AVATAR or ALICE IN WONDERLAND, both released during the height of the “Great Recession,” when unemployment rates were above 10%.

    So, once again, what matters is the following: **ticket sales** (in relation to the population). One can't speculate how this movie or that movie would have performed had it been released when the economy was better or the weather nicer or more public transportation available or fewer distractions distracting potential moviegoers.

    Wrapping this up, KING KONG was a gigantic hit. One of the biggest box-office successes of the '30s. It was released during the height of the Great Depression, 1933. U.S. unemployment rate: 24.9%.

  3. zac


    So, Heath Ledger died. Okay. Should I have added an estimate for “The Avengers'” box-office take had Chris Hemsworth or Robert Downey Jr been killed? Or had Scarlett Johansson committed harakiri? You can't be serious.

    The above article merely points out that ***the true measure of a film's success at the box office is TICKET SALES***. (If movies released in different decades are being compared, then the population should be compared as well.) That's it.

  4. Brendan

    You've left out an important factor, Dark Knight would never have sold as much as it did if Heath Ledger didn't die! So you're adjusted inaccurate ticket sales don't even reflect anything

  5. Steven Morrow

    While this is all technically true (despite the fact you do not take into account domestic economics and unemployment when figuring ticket sales — one can't help but think you would if it would help your point, which it doesn't), I am truly amazed at the lengths Nolan fans will go to so eagerly discount the Avengers' success, especially before it completes its run. And yes, I realize this was pointed out in the article, but still. T hat's like saying, “It's still too early to officially call it, but see, see, its not REALLY number 3 .”

    I have a strong suspicion if this had been any other movie dethroned than the Dark Knight, technically or otherwise, writers like this would not be so glaringly swift in attempts to dismiss the Avengers' success. I bet when the Dark Knight took the #3 spot, there were far, far fewer writers trying desperately to adjust for inflation to determine its “true” ranking.