Putting some of Marvel's biggest characters in a single film that doesn't involve mutants is tricky for a movie studio, even if it's one that's owned by the Walt Disney Co.
But it looks like having Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and other super friends is going to be big at the box office. Very big. And it couldn't come at a better time: Both distributor Disney and director Joss Whedon are longing for a box office smash.
Pre-release buzz and ticket sales are pushing many observers to believe that "The Avengers" could have the biggest opening since "The Dark Knight" pulled in more than $158 million on its opening weekend in July 2008. That's huge, especially since "Dark Knight," the second film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, would eventually take its place as the third largest domestic box office grosser of all time with $533.3 million, behind only 2009's "Avatar" ($760.5 million) and "Titanic" ($600.8 million).
That doesn't necessarily mean that "Avengers" will join that very elite club, but it should be enough to get both moviegoers and the movie studio itself demanding more.
The biggest opening belongs to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," which premiered in July 2011 with $170 million. While it would become the highest-grossing Harry Potter movie of all time, it didn't have the box office staying power of "Dark Knight," and ended up grossing just $381 million domestically, good for 12th place overall.
The reports are good for both Disney and Whedon. Disney is coming off a huge box office bomb that was "John Carter," losing so much money, it actually affected the company's financial position. Whedon co-wrote "Cabin in the Woods" that despite being released two years late, received heavy praise from critics. However, it didn't get the same attention from audiences, and finished behind the fourth week of "The Hunger Games" and the premiere of the comedy "The Three Stooges" last weekend.
At this point, "Avengers" is expected to come out in a couple weeks well ahead of the opening weekend of "Hunger Games," and possibly challenge its current box office title for 2012. Through Sunday, that film has grossed $336.7 million, and no other film has come close in the young year so far.
Even more interesting for "Avengers" is that the audience is not the typical makeup interested in superhero fare. That audience is typically young males. But the latest studies have shown growth in the interest from women, the series of hunky men in tights probably not hurting.
"Avengers" stars Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson among others in this ensemble cast. Whedon, of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly" fame, wrote the screenplay based on a story he crafted with Zak Penn, an executive producer and writer for Syfy's popular series "Alphas."
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