If you've ever doubted the box office prowess of Disney (NYSE: DIS ) and Marvel, look no further than this weekend's early results.
In a continuation of last week's international domination, early estimates put Thor: The Dark World on pace for a massive $82 million stateside weekend haul. For those of you keeping track, Marvel's latest comic book-inspired film has also racked up more than $150 million overseas so far.
To put that into perspective, its predecessor, Thor, earned a respectable $65.7 million during its own domestic weekend debut. When all was said and done in 2011, the muscle-bound hero had enticed movie-goers to part with more than $449 million in global gross receipts. This time around, it seems safe to expect Thor: The Dark World to easily surpass that total.
Meanwhile, if Friday's sales are any indication, Lionsgate's (NYSE: LGF ) Ender's Game is set to plummet more than 60% from last weekend's solid $28 million domestic opening. As it stands, that puts the controversial sci-fi thriller's total domestic gross at just over $44 million, or well short of its massive $110 million production budget. But if it's any consolation, at least Lionsgate only financed around 20% of that total, leaving the majority of the burden with fellow financiers Oddlott Entertainment and Digital Domain.
If that weren't enough, this also means Ender's Game will likely drop all the way down to fifth place this weekend behind CBS Films' fellow second-weekend contender Last Vegas, Viacom's three-week-old box office veteran Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and Relativity Media's animated Thanksgiving effort, Free Birds. All things considered, and with Lionsgate's second installment of The Hunger Games franchise set to hit theaters on Nov. 22, the possibility of an Ender's Game sequel looks less likely by the day -- quite a shame, if you ask me, considering the Ender-saga storyline's great potential.
But it also begs the question: Will Thor: The Dark World face a similar fate when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits the big screen in two weeks?
I doubt it.
Remember, the first Thor achieved its stellar results in spite of having to face Disney's $1 billion blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides just two weeks later, then The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 the week after that.
In short, Disney knows all too well Marvel fans will come out in force to watch their favorite superheroes on the big screen, regardless of its competition. We'll see how the final weekend box office numbers turn out on Monday, but for now it's safe to say Disney's demigod has everyone right where he wants them.
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