Judging by the data, fans can't wait to see Iron Man clash with Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron, due to hit U.S. theaters on May 1. Image credit: Marvel Entertainment.

Good news, Disney (NYSE:DIS) investors. According to reams of data analyzed by Networked InsightsAvengers: Age of Ultron will open north of $240 million when it makes its debut in U.S. theaters this weekend, easily breaking the domestic record set by its predecessor three years ago.

"This movie will be the biggest movie ever. The first one opened at $207 million, and we expect this one to be even bigger and open near $240 million," said Jaime Brugueras, Networked Insights VP of analytics, in an interview.

The bird's-eye view tells all
How can he make that claim? Brugueras says Networked Insights classifies the social web. Every tweet and post is measured according to 15,000 identifiers, including emotions such as excitement, disgust, horror, and so on. The more emotion detected in the post, the more likely it indicates intent.

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) provides the most intelligence. "When we work with studios, we have data on 3 million blogs, YouTube, Disqus, WordPress," Brugeras says. "We account for conversation on all those platforms as well as Wikipedia page views. Each of them adds value. But Twitter is the kingpin and offers the most value."

Networked Insights studied 400 films dating to 2012 and found that, on average, a positive tweet lifts opening weekend box-office receipts by $560. 

That's not to say every tweet is worth that much. Networked Insights' study controlled for the expected audience for each film included to determine the incremental benefit of extra buzz. Tweets, because they're public and easily tagged for demographic information (male or female, relative age, topic interest, etc.), offer the best tool for measuring how much a film is appealing to audiences outside its base. Age of Ultron is doing very well in that regard.

The Black Widow effect
As of early April, the opening weekend crowd for Age of Ultron was skewing about 42% female, 58% male. What's more, fans of sci-fi films and young-adult movies were also gearing up to see the film.

Could it be that a recent trailer featuring Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is playing well with moviegoers that had been on the fence? Brugeras couldn't say for sure, yet the data suggest enough enthusiasm outside the film's expected fan base that he's comfortable projecting a $240 million-plus domestic opening -- a 15.6% boost over its record-setting predecessor.

Source: Networked Insights.

But even that may be conservative. Social buzz for the various Age of Ultron trailers is more than twice that of any other film in the genre measured over the course of Networked Insights' two-year study:

MovieConsumer Posts Around TrailerOverall Rank
Avengers: Age of Ultron 500,480 1
Iron Man 3 213,840 5
Fantastic Four 173,590 7
The Dark Knight Rises 145,820 9
The Avengers 115,180 12
Man of Steel 109,610 15
Ant-Man 107,230 16
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 98,050 20
Thor: The Dark World 92,410 23
X-Men: Days of Future Past 84,790 28
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 63,330 39
The Amazing Spider-Man 61,330 41
The Wolverine 21,500 93

Source: Networked Insights.

Three things should stand out as you look at this table:

  1. Big buzz can lead to billions. Of the top five most talked-about films on this list, only three have reached theaters, and each one of those has earned over $1 billion in worldwide grosses. Specifically: $1.52 billion for The Avengers, $1.22 billion for Iron Man 3, and $1.08 billion for The Dark Knight Rises, according to data from Box Office Mojo.
  2. A strong open isn't as important as sustained momentum. Notice which movie isn't on this list? How about Guardians of the Galaxy? Last year's third-best domestic grosser opened at $94.3 million and went on to more than triple that on strong reviews and positive word of mouth. Rotten Tomatoes puts the audience rating for Guardians at 93% fresh.
  3. The Marvel Cinematic Universe imprimatur matters more than the characters that inhabit it. I can't be the only one surprised to see Ant-Man ranking just two rungs below Avengers on this list. Some of that may be due to timing: More of us are using social media today than in 2012. But it's also possible that viewers simply trust the Marvel brand. Director Peyton Reed's first full trailer may have been just good enough to get audiences thinking of Ant-Man as another in a long line of MCU winners. 

We won't know for sure until July, when Ant-Man makes its debut. First, we get to see whether Avengers: Age of Ultron makes good on the data and sets an opening weekend record. I'll go further and say the film will be the first since Avatar to top $2 billion in worldwide grosses. Brugueras can't be as sure about the long term, but he's dead certain of what's to come on May 1: "Avengers had a record opening. I think this one is going to blow that one away."

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.