No Strings on Marvel: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Tracking for Another All-Time Opening Weekend Record?

on April 09, 2015

ultron.pngBy Shawn Robbins

To the surprise of few, early tracking points to a $200 million+ opening weekend for Avengers: Age of Ultron, launching domestically on May 1. It'll mark the ninth consecutive year a Marvel-related franchise has opened the first weekend of May. Today's tracking lines up with BoxOffice's initial prediction for the film last month.

Pre-sales are already outpacing the first Avengers film, which debuted to a colossal $207 million three years ago as it capitalized on being the first blockbuster superhero team-up flick in cinema history. The team has only grown since then, and adding James Spader's villainous Ultron to the mix has already proven a popular move with positive reactions to his motion-captured presence.

No film has challenged Avengers' record in the time since, though. Iron Man 3 came closest with its massive $174 million debut in May 2013, although it's a widely held assumption that The Dark Knight Rises would have come even closer were it not for the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado. That franchise finale opened to $161 million in July 2012, but had been tracking as high as $180 million for weeks before release -- despite not having a 3D price boost.

Age of Ultron is arguably the most widely anticipated film since the Dark Knight finale and Avengers itself, but could falling 3D shares hold it back from claiming another record? The format accounted for 52 percent of the previous film's debut weekend gross, and audiences have generally continued shying away from the format (with rare exceptions like Gravity and Life of Pi). The youth appeal of Marvel films has helped, though: last summer's Guardians of the Galaxy boasted a respectable 45 percent 3D share on opening weekend. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a bit lower at 40 percent last April.

Whatever Ultron might lose in potentially lower 3D sales, or in simply not being the "first" team-up movie, it gains in sheer profile and spectacle. "The Avengers Bump" helped expand the franchise performances of Iron ManThor, and Captain America without fail. On top of excellent marketing, last year's Guardians further locked in the studio's drawing power as the once-obscure title posted an August record $94 million bow. 

Social media further highlights the sequel's massive anticipation. Over the past week, it generated 97 percent more Twitter discussion than Winter Soldier did at the same time before release, and 145 percent more than Guardians. Ultron's audience buzz on Rotten Tomatoes/Flixster is already soaring to all-time highs with a remarkable 100 percent anticipation score among nearly 200,000 users (and climbing) -- the most of any movie since Dark Knight Rises. The official Facebook page stands at 13.5 million fans, blowing away the 1.5 million counted on the first day of Avengers' release in 2012.

Ultimately, Age of Ultron's reviews could be a deciding factor toward making history. When ecstatic reactions began leaking ahead of the first Avengers' release, excitement soared and it became clear that something far more special than expected was about to hit. That's the kind of power social media has on a movie in this day and age. If another round of positive reception comes to fruition in the next few weeks, odds of seeing just enough audience expansion to top $207 million are very favorable.

Forget "The Avengers Bump". "The Marvel Bump" is in full force now.

Follow Shawn Robbins and BoxOffice on Twitter

Tags: The Dark Knight Rises, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Robert Downey Jr., Captain America, Iron Man, James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Disney, Marvel, north-america

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