NEW YORK: The universe belongs to Marvel. “Avengers: Endgame” shattered the record for biggest opening weekend with an estimated $350 million in ticket sales domestically and $1.2 billion globally, reaching a new pinnacle in the blockbuster era that the comic-book studio has come to dominate. The “Avengers” finale far exceeded its own expectations, according to studio estimates Sunday. The movie had been forecast to open between $260 million and $300 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters. Moviegoers turned out in such droves that “Endgame” blew past the previous record of $257.7 million, set last year by “Avengers: Infinity War” when it narrowly surpassed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Worldwide, “Endgame” obliterated the previous record of $640.5 million, also set by “Infinity War.” (“Infinity War” didn’t open in China, the world’s second largest movie market, until two weeks after its debut.) “Endgame” set a new weekend record in China, too, where it made $330.5 million.
In one fell swoop, “Endgame” has already made more than movies like “Skyfall,” “Aquaman” and “The Dark Knight Rises” grossed in their entire runs, not accounting for inflation. To accommodate demand, the Walt Disney Co. released “Endgame” in more theaters 4,662 in the U.S. and Canada than any previous opening. Advance ticketing services set new records. Early ticket buyers crashed AMC’s website. Starting Thursday, some theaters stayed open 72 hours straight.
“We’ve got some really tired staff,” said John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theater Owners. “I talked to an exhibitor in Kansas who said, ‘I’ve never sold out a 7 a.m. show on Saturday morning before,’ and they were doing it all across their circuit.”
Not working in the film’s favor was its lengthy 181-minute running time, but theaters added thousands of showings for “Endgame,” getting it on more screens than any movie before.
Joe and Anthony Russo’s film ties together the “Avengers” storyline as well as the previous 21 releases of the Marvel “cinematic universe,” begun with 2008’s “Iron Man.”
For an industry dogged by uncertainty over the growing role of streaming, the weekend was a mammoth display of the movie theater’s lucrative potency.
Further boosting the results for “Endgame” were good reviews. It currently ranks as 96 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the best rating for any Marvel movie aside from “Black Panther.”
There is one shadow over the cinema business in just how reliant theaters have grown upon one studio: Disney. Disney now holds all but one of the top 12 box-office openings of all time. (Universal’s “Jurassic World” is the lone exception.)
The studio is poised for a record-breaking year, with releases including “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Frozen 2” on the horizon. Following its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Disney is expected to account for at least 40 percent of domestic box-office revenue in 2019, a new record of market share.