By Saba Hamedy
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Walt Disney’s Marvel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is poised to dominate the domestic box office with an anticipated opening of about $200 million.
The Joss Whedon-directed superhero sequel, which cost $250 million to make, could pull in $190 million to $230 million, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. Most tracking estimates suggest that the sequel will launch with a figure somewhere in the middle of that range.
“The Avengers” became the biggest domestic debut ever with a $207.4 million opening in May 2012. It went on to make $1.5 billion worldwide. The film surpassed the $169.2 million record set during the opening weekend of 2011’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.” Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” became the second-best opening in box office history in 2013 when it launched with $175.3 million.
The film follows superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as they battle against technological villain Ultron (James Spader).
Disney said the sequel has made $255.4 million overseas since its rollout April 22.
Last weekend, it was the No. 1 movie in all countries in which it opened, including France, Italy, Germany, Britain, Australia, South Korea, Argentina and Brazil.
“Age of Ultron” also set an Imax box office record for the largest non-China international opening of all time with a per-screen average of $60,000 in ticket sales. It opened in Mexico, Spain and several additional markets Thursday.
Movie ticketing websites and exhibitors were seeing robust pre-sale numbers and enthusiasm from moviegoers. The film, which will be released in 4,276 theaters, was kicking off Thursday with evening showings.
MovieTickets.com reported Tuesday that North American advance ticket sales for the sequel are 3.7 times greater than the 2012 release of “The Avengers” at the same point in the sales cycle for each film. An estimated 84 percent of all tickets sold Monday were from moviegoers wanting to see the Avengers assemble again.
AMC Entertainment, owner of the nation’s second-largest theater chain, said the film had sold out dozens of night shows. The theater also sold out its “Marvel Marathon” (28 straight hours of Marvel films) showings, available at four locations.
“Marvel has really found a way to continue to stay ahead of really high expectations from consumers,” Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution, said Sunday. “And the films leave people feeling overwhelmingly satisfied in their trip to the movie theater.”
Like its predecessor, “Age of Ultron” is likely to draw in a wide variety of moviegoers, skewing male. “The Avengers” earned a perfect grade of A-plus on audience polling firm CinemaScore. It appealed to both young and old moviegoers, with about 50 percent of audiences over the age of 25. An estimated 60 percent of audiences was male.
The film’s debut marks the start of the highly anticipated summer season. The industry experienced one of its worst summers in 2014, grossing about $4.05 billion compared with $4.75 billion in 2013. Even more telling, no film crossed the $300 million mark domestically for the first time since 2001.
However, analysts have said this summer is likely to set records with a robust lineup that includes action films such as “Jurassic World,” “Terminator: Genisys,” “Ant-Man,” “Fantastic Four” and female-driven flicks such as “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Spy,” “Magic Mike XXL” and “Paper Towns.”