Brace yourselves, Marvel fans, because Thor: The Dark World this weekend could exceed the perfectly respectable box office total achieved by its predecessor.
For some perspective, when all was said and done after 16 weeks on the big screen in 2011, the original Thor commanded an impressive $449.3 million in global ticket sales, or roughly triple parent company Disney's (NYSE:DIS) $150 million production budget.
By comparison, as of Wednesday evening, Disney's latest comic book-inspired sequel has already garnered $342.3 million worldwide, already easily doubling its own $170 million budget, and more than 70% of which has come from international audiences over the past two and a half weeks.
But that's also not to say Thor: The Dark World's U.S. performance is anything to sneeze at. After all, in its domestic debut last weekend, it managed to best the original by 31% with an $86.1 million opening weekend take.
Why this time is different
Remember, two years ago, Thor in its own second week had to contend with the release of a relatively popular quasi-competitor in Bridesmaids, which achieved a solid $26.2 million domestic launch.
Even so, Thor still came out on top in the U.S. that weekend after falling more than 47.2% to earn $34.7 million. That gave it a nice little holdover boost to prep for week three, which marked the start of a more than $1 billion run for Disney's fellow blockbuster, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.
This time, however, there are two key advantages for the sequel going into its second weekend in the U.S.
First, Thor: The Dark World is obviously riding a wave of enthusiasm surrounding the character's status as an integral part of Marvel's The Avengers. For those of you keeping track, The Avengers managed an amazing $1.52 billion worldwide box office run, and currently stands as the third-highest grossing film of all time behind only Avatar and Titanic.
Second, the only significant new release this weekend arrives in the form of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal's The Best Man Holiday, which reprises 1999's The Best Man and is set to hit roughly 2,000 theaters stateside. Still, that's only a little more than half the number of screens simultaneously featuring Thor: The Dark World. In addition, The Best Man only managed to earn a total of $34.6 million for Comcast, albeit on a minuscule $9 million budget.
In the meantime, Viacom's Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is entering its fourth week, while CBS Films' Last Vegas, Lionsgate's (NYSE:LGF-A) Ender's Game, and Relativity Media's Free Birds are all headed into week three.
As a result, Thor: The Dark World should have little stopping it from a continued run of complete and utter box office domination, at least until Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire arrives on Nov. 22.
Crunching the numbers
Does that mean Thor: The Dark World will be able to surpass the first Thor's total this weekend? Not necessarily, but let's do some quick back-of-the-napkin math to see how it might fare.
As of Monday morning, Thor: The Dark World had $327 million in gross ticket receipts, which means it earned another $15.3 million between Monday night and Wednesday evening. If we conservatively tack on another $7 million in accelerating Thursday evening sales, that leaves almost exactly $100 million remaining before Thor: The Dark World exceeds the first film.
But even if Thor: The Dark World does match the original's 47.2% second-week drop in the U.S., that would still bring another $45.5 million from domestic movie-goers this weekend, leaving the final $54.5 million to international viewers. If that seems like a tall order, remember overseas audiences still brought in $94 million last weekend as the film continued its global expansion. In short, while it may be close, Thor: The Dark World has a great chance of pulling it off.
In any case, while it may not happen this weekend, it's safe to say Thor: The Dark World will surpass the first film's total in the very near future.
Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.