Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon, took in an estimated $187.7 million domestically through Sunday.
Those who wish to spin this negatively will point out that this comes in under the first Avengers film, also directed by Whedon, which had a record-breaking $207.4-million opening weekend in 2012. Both opened on a Friday, making the comparison more fair. Age of Ultron actually did better on opening day, taking in $84.5 million compared to the original’s $80.8 million. But the sequel performed poorer than the original on Saturday and Sunday.
One way to explain the discrepancy is that the first movie was the first time viewers had seen these characters together in a single movie, and the idea of a shared cinematic universe was still a relatively new and untested idea. Fast forward three years, and everyone’s copied the shared-universe concept. Moreover, Marvel has not only released four movies between the two Avengers films but four TV seasons of three separate shows. It’s too early to know if Marvel is spreading itself too thin or cannibalizing itself, but even if this is the case, the effect is remarkably slight. A more important factor is that The Avengers seemed like the culmination of every Marvel movie so far, but the four Marvel movies since didn’t feel like they were leading into the Avengers sequel, which instead felt more like another chapter in the overall universe (albeit an important chapter featuring all the major characters, and some new ones). Perhaps Saturday’s boxing match between Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather was also a factor?
A more positive spin would point out that the sequel’s opening weekend is still the second-biggest opening weekend in history and that, since 2012, no movie’s really threatened the opening record set by The Avengers. The closest was 2013′s Iron Man 3, which opened to $174.1 million domestically, riding on the coattails of The Avengers. These are currently the three biggest opening weekends in history.
Another positive: Age of Ultron has now made the Marvel Cinematic Universe the most lucrative movie franchise ever, including international box office receipts. With $7.79 billion, the Marvel Cinematic Universe now edges out Harry Potter movies, which totalled $7.72 billion. Age of Ultron has a lot left to run, and Marvel’s aggressive slate of planned movies is sure to keep the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the top of this list for a long while. (However, this doesn’t take into account the total per movie; Age of Ultron is the 11th Marvel movie.)
Age of Ultron debuted in several international markets prior to the U.S. and has already taken in an estimated $439 million abroad, bringing its estimated worldwide box office to $626.7 million. International box-office totals have been increasing, and Age of Ultron looks likely to surpass $1 billion worldwide. It’s also likely — though not certain — to surpass Iron Man 3 ($1.2 billion worldwide) to become the second highest-grossing Marvel movie ever (behind the $1.5-billion worldwide total for The Avengers).
These are absurd and perhaps frightening numbers, but certainly not disappointing for Marvel or its parent company, Disney.