Avengers: Infinity War opens with record-breaking weekend

A whole lot of superheroes added up to a whole lot of ticket sales. The superhero smorgasbord Avengers: Infinity Wars opened with predictable shock-and-awe both here and overseas.

At the local box office Marvel‘s latest earned a supersized $3,879,902, giving the movie the second highest opening weekend in New Zealand history.

That wasn‘t enough to claim the top spot in the record books from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which enjoyed a $4.5 million opening weekend here back in 2015.

Overseas, however, the force was not with the Jedi. The Avengers managing to edge past Star Wars by pulling in US$250 million (NZ$353m) over the weekend and setting a new record for the highest opening weekend of all-time.


Infinity War, which brings together some two dozen superheroes in the 10-year culmination of Marvel Studio‘s “cinematic universe,” also set a new global opening record with $630 million even though it‘s yet to open in China, the world‘s second-largest movie market. It opens there May 11.

According to the Walt Disney Co‘s estimates, Infinity War overwhelmed the previous global best (The Fate of the Furious with $541.9 million) but narrowly topped The Force Awakens in North America. The Star Wars reboot debuted with $248 million in 2015, which would translate to about $260 million accounting for inflation.

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But both intergalactic behemoths belong to Disney, which now owns nine of the top 10 opening weekends ever — six belonging to Marvel releases. That includes Black Panther, which has grossed $1.3 billion since opening in February and still managed to rank fifth at this weekend‘s box office, thanks partially to Marvel fans self-programming a double-feature.

The track record for Marvel, along with the hyper, extravagant effort put into the long-planned Infinity War, made the record-setting weekend something of a fait accompli. After ten years, 18 prior films and some $15 billion in box office, the weekend was an assured and long-awaited coronation for Kevin Feige‘s Marvel, the most dominant force in a Hollywood with precious few sure things.

“To have now the biggest movie of domestic history as one of the Marvel cinematic universe films seems like a fitting tribute to the Marvel Studios team which has had just an astounding, unmatched run in the last decade,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney.

By any measure, the 2-hour-and-40 minute-long Infinity War is one of the largest films ever assembled. With a production budget reportedly almost $300 million, Joe and Anthony Russo‘s film brings together the stars of Marvel‘s superhero stable, including Robert Downey Jr‘s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor, Chadwick Boseman‘s Black Panther, Chris Evans‘ Captain America, Mark Ruffalo‘s Hulk, and many more.

It was shot over 18 months back-to-back with a sequel due out next summer. Marvel spent years laying the groundwork for the big showdown, teasing its villain (Josh Brolin‘s Thanos) since 2014. The result earned positive reviews (84 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A CinemaScore from audiences. All but one of Marvel‘s 19 cinematic universe releases has scored an A CinemaScore.

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As if to further stamp its pronounced enormity, Infinity War was also the first film shot entirely with IMAX cameras. (Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk was mostly shot on IMAX.) IMAX screenings accounted for a record $41 million of the weekend‘s global ticket sales. Greg Foster, head of entertainment for IMAX Corp, said the success of Marvel stands apart from Hollywood‘s other mega franchises.

“This isn‘t something that their parents saw. This isn‘t an old franchise that their parents saw when they were 20,” said Foster. “This is theirs. The Marvel universe is the group of characters that this generation owns.”

No new wide releases dared to compete with Infinity War, which played at 4474 theatres in North America. In a very distant second place was John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place with $10.7 million in its fourth week. With $148.2 million in total ticket sales, the Paramount Pictures thriller had topped the box office three of the last four weekends.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, credited Marvel with the potent lead-up to Infinity Wars with Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther — all successful and well-reviewed entries.

“This brought the world together this weekend,” said Dergarabedian. “That‘s what these movies do: They remind us why we love going to the movie theatre. A movie like this shows the singular and unique experience of going into a movie theatre.”

– AP