The unparalleled triumph of Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Avengers: Endgame cast aside the record-breaking success of its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, like a disposable evil henchman. The latest entry from the Marvel Cinematic Universe made box office history this weekend, breaking a growing number of North American and worldwide records.
The movie became the biggest global debut ever, generating $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales -- the first to surpass the billion-dollar mark in an opening weekend -- and nearly doubling the $641 million record set by Infinity War in 2018. It also turned domestic records to dust, with an estimated $350 million in ticket sales.
The records kept falling
The movie had more than $60 million in Thursday ticket sales in North America, and $158 million in first-day ticket sales, hurtling past the marks previously held by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As the weekend progressed, it shattered the records for its Saturday and Sunday ticket sales as well, with estimates of $109 million and $84 million, respectively, beating Infinity War's take of $82 million and $69 million. Then there was the worldwide IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) opening-weekend record of $91.5 million, which beat the previous record by 92%.
Hulk and friends smashed the record for largest opening in international markets at more than $859 million, topping Fate of the Furious' $443 million. In China, the world's second-largest film market, the movie became the biggest showing in the country's history, surpassing $107 million on its first night in theaters, and $330 million over the five-day weekend of its debut.
Setting the stage for a blowout
Disney was betting on the popularity of its Marvel characters, booking 4,662 theaters in North America to screen Endgame, making it the widest release of all time. Theater operator AMC (NYSE:AMC) said it set aside 10 million seats and a record 58,000 showtimes over the past weekend to accommodate the rush of moviegoers clamoring to see the blockbuster. A number of theaters had round-the-clock showings to meet the demand.
The hype surrounding Avengers: Endgame was more than a decade in the making. It serves to wrap up the story lines for the core Avengers characters -- Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye -- and stands as a conclusion of sorts to the 21 movies that preceded it, beginning with Iron Man in 2008.
Many industry observers anticipated the overwhelming response for Endgame when multiple pre-sale outlets crashed under the unprecedented volume that flooded ticket-buying sites ahead of its release.
Endgame's cultural phenomenon status comes on the heels of a banner 2018 for Disney's film studios, which produced nearly $10 billion in revenue, a year-over-year increase of 19%, and operating income of $3 billion, which grew 27%. The company boasted three of the five top-grossing movies last year, highlighted by Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Incredibles 2.
These were also among the most profitable movies of the year, adding an estimated $500 million, $477 million, and $447 million, respectively, to Disney's bottom line (the company doesn't provide the actual figures). With its massive success through just one weekend, Endgame will likely top those lofty totals. Some suggest its profits could climb as high as $600 million to $650 million.
Just the beginning
There is a wealth of data that suggests that Earth's mightiest heroes will conquer more records in the weeks and months to come. Avengers: Endgame is Certified Fresh, with a 96% score, on ratings aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. And it earned an A+ from moviegoers polled by CinemaScore. After seeing the film, 83% of audiences said they would definitely recommend the film to others, and 29% said they would return to theaters to see the movie again, according to Comscore. The positive reviews and significant buzz will continue to drive audiences to theaters, which should break even more records.
Many are already predicting that the era-ending film will top $2 billion in box office, which would make it one of only four films in history to accomplish that, joining Avatar, Titanic, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Infinity War.
Disney could have even more box office magic in the coming months as other potential blockbusters are gearing up for release. Toy Story 4, the live-action remake of The Lion King, Frozen 2, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are all scheduled to debut later this year.
In the weeks leading up to the premiere of Avengers: Endgame, many (myself included) wondered if it could top the massive success of Infinity War. That question has been answered with a record-shattering "yes."