When it comes to superhero team-ups, it looks like the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts: "The Avengers" rocked the box office over the weekend, shattering all domestic opening weekends with an estimated $200 million kickoff. That take is significantly higher than the previous record-holder, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," which collected $169.2 million when it opened last year.
Marvel's landmark comic book flick — which unites Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) against an otherworldly threat — became the fastest movie ever to reach $100 million, $150 million and $200 million at the box office. "The Avengers" also enjoyed the highest per-theater average ever for a nationwide release with $46,057 per theater.
Each Avenger has existed within the same Marvel movie universe since Samuel L. Jackson's first post-credits appearance as Nick Fury in 2008's "Iron Man." With the start of its own studio, Marvel was able to circumvent the multiple licensing issues that prevented their heroes from crossing over in films like "Spider-Man" (made by Sony) and "Fantastic Four" (Fox).
"The Avengers" made more in three days than the entire runs of "Captain America: The First Avenger" ($176.6 million), "Thor" ($181 million) and "The Incredible Hulk" ($134.8 million). By this weekend, it should surpass "Iron Man" ($318.4 million) and "Iron Man 2" ($312.4 million) as well.
"Marvel's The Avengers" (the official title, presumably to avoid confusion with a spy flick based on a British TV series) is the best reviewed of the recent crop, boasting a 93 percent positive critic's average on Rotten Tomatoes at press time.
Thanks to "Avengers," this past weekend brought in the overall fifth-highest box office of all time. The flick's 82.7 percent of the weekend's $242 million put it right behind "Spider-Man 3" for biggest weekend market share, according to Box Office Mojo. According to reports, 40 percent of audiences saw it in 3-D, and IMAX theaters simply didn't have enough seats to accommodate demand.
"Avengers" has made $441.5 million abroad, where it opened a week before. That makes the movie's overall two-week gross more than $641 million, easily placing it at #1 as the biggest movie of 2012 thus far.
No stranger to balancing an ensemble and mixing comic relief with supernaturally driven dramatic tension, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" mastermind Joss Whedon (who co-wrote and directed) isn't officially signed on for "The Avengers 2," but there are, of course, already several "Avengers"-related movies in production. Marvel already has "Iron Man 3" as well as sequels to "Thor" and "Captain America" on the docket, plus filmmaker Edgar Wright's long-discussed "Ant-Man."
"Avengers" was the first Marvel movie to be marketed and released by Disney, who bought Marvel for $4 billion back in August 2009.
As for the other movies in theaters over the weekend, "Think Like a Man" (which was #1 for the previous two weekends) was #2 with $8 million. Based on comedian Steve Harvey's self-help book, "Think Like a Man" was produced for just $12 million and has made $73 million domestically already.
"The Hunger Games," which is now #4 on the all-time weekend openings list, was #3 with $5.7 million giving it a seven-week domestic total of $380.7 million. Zac Efron's "The Lucky One" was just behind with $5.5 million for a three-week total of $47.9 million. "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" rounded out the top five with $5.4 million. The latest from Oscar-winning British animation house Aardman Animations has made $185 million domestically thus far. In a bit of counter-programming, Fox Searchlight's smart dramatic comedy "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" opened in 27 theaters, taking in $750,000.
Who will be brave enough to challenge Earth's Mightiest Heroes this weekend? Tim Burton's campy adaptation of classic British vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows," with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (naturally) in the leads, will make its debut, as will smaller pictures like "God Bless America" (written and directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait) and Eva Mendes' "Girl in Progress."
The biggest challengers for "The Avengers" will be other heroes: "The Amazing Spider-Man" (July 3) and "The Dark Knight Rises" (July 20). "The Dark Knight" holds the #3 biggest opening-weekend record, while "Spider-Man 3" ranks at #5.
Check out everything we've got on "Marvel's The Avengers."