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“Avengers: Infinity War” exceeded expectations with $258 million, $8 million ahead of top estimates and besting the opening weekend of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” (Technically, the 2015 franchise reboot currently squeaks by with $621.6 million adjusted, but Kathleen Kennedy’s already made a point of passing the light saber. And with Disney owning everything, it’s all in the family.)
Globally, “Avengers” set another record with $641 million, which jumped to $725.5 million on Monday. It could cross $1 billion by the end of the week — and China doesn’t even open until May 11.
As “The Avengers: Infinity War” makes records fall with a snap of its fingers, its biggest challenge is an inside job. The 2012 release of “The Avengers” holds the benchmark at $705.8 million domestic adjusted; which Marvel film — “The Avengers,” “Black Panther,” or “The Avengers: Infinity War” will come out on top?
For the last month, it’s appeared that “Black Panther” would fall just short of “Avengers.” But over the weekend, the race became more interesting: Despite losing 15 percent of its theaters, “Black Panther” saw its gross decline just four percent. The eight non-Marvel films in the top 10 dropped 47 percent-75 percent.
Logically, another Marvel film in the market might seem the most likely to see a direct hit on its gross. Instead, it appears that just as the success of “Black Panther” broadened the MCU fanbase, “Infinity War” returned the favor by feeding more interest in “Black Panther.”
That brings “Panther” to $688.4 million, $17.4 million short of “The Avengers.” In its 11th week, that normally would be a bridge too far, but on this trajectory it could see another $20 million in its theatrical run, for $708 million. And while “Deadpool 2” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” open this month, with “Panther” at #5 this weekend it could play many top-grossing theaters as long as Memorial Day.
“Avengers: Infinity War”
That record-breaking opening weekend makes the idea of “Infinity War” reaching $706 million seem more than plausible, but it still represents a challenge. That 2.7 opening multiple is plausible; “Avengers” had a three-times multiple, while “Age of Ultron” was 2.4 times.
By comparison, “Black Panther” stands at a 3.4 multiple, and “The Force Awakens” at nearly 3.8. However, “Panther” became a cultural phenomenon while “The Force Awakens” was timed to maximize Christmas play time.
The status of “Infinity War” as cultural phenomenon remains to be seen, but it definitely faces “Deadpool 2” (also Marvel) in its third week and “Solo” (also from Disney) the week after. Neither “Black Panther” nor “Force Awakens” had that problem in its first months.
If “Infinity War” performs at “Ultron” levels, it makes $619 million; at “Avengers” levels, $774 million. Of course, there’s no guarantee of any level; “Batman vs. Superman” only managed to double its opening. And as a rule, higher openings face a multiples handicap since they accrue so much business at the start.
Clearly, we have a three-film race for the biggest Marvel film of all time. And between “Black Panther” and “Infinity War,” adjustments won’t be needed.