It's safe to say that everyone expected Marvel's "The Avengers" to smash the box office when it opened in U.S. theaters this weekend, but no one could foresee just how many records it would break.
According to Deadline Hollywood, the Joss Whedon-directed film grossed more than $207 million domestically this weekend, blasting away the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" record of $169 million. The film now also holds the #1 spot for highest Saturday gross of all time with a whopping $69.7 million made in a single day.
"We are really in uncharted territory now with an opening like this," Phil Contrino of BoxOffice.com told MTV News.
With "Avengers" exceeding fan and critic expectations, is the film poised to break any other records? Box Office Guru editor Gitesh Pandya predicts some hefty numbers. "It also broke the speed record for hitting $200 million, doing it in a mere three days, beating a trio of past hits that did it in five days," he said. "And I project it will become the fastest film in history to smash the $1 billion global box-office mark, doing it in about 20 days or so. 'Avengers' just might end up becoming the highest-grossing non-James Cameron film ever."
Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock agrees, saying, "[It] will likely take down many of 'The Dark Knight' and 'Deathly Hallows, Part 2' [records], including best first-week gross and fastest to $300 million."
But with such huge numbers in the beginning, there's a chance the film could drastically drop in weeks to come. "I don't think it can possibly manage to drop only 55-60 percent like most summer blockbusters, but if it does then it could very well challenge the $533.3 million domestic gross of 'The Dark Knight,' " Contrino said.
"I don't think it will catch 'Titanic' or 'Avatar' domestically, but I wouldn't completely rule it out either. It all depends on how much repeat business it gets."
Pandya agrees that "Avengers" will have a sizable drop in its second weekend in theaters. "We won't see 'Titanic' or 'Avatar'-type legs here, but a final domestic gross of more than $450 million seems likely."
Bock is a little more optimistic, putting the overall domestic tally at $500 million. "As reviews have been through the roof, it will definitely benefit from repeat viewings," he said. " 'The Avengers' success is now the model by which all comic book franchises will now be judged. This certainly played out like a sequel, because it was built like one. In fact, this was a super-sequel arriving with the most built-in buzz in the history of modern-day cinema."
Contrino credits the buzz to Disney's incredible campaign to market the film. "They combined traditional marketing — TV spots, trailers — with plenty of outreach on Facebook and Twitter. Marketers will be studying this for years to come."
But marketing departments won't be the only teams studying up on Disney and Marvel's success. Bock believes DC Comics should be taking some notes. "Marvel maneuvered their characters like Bobby Fischer moved chess pieces — always thinking of the next move," he said.
"This was Marvel's master plan from the beginning and it turned into a master class. If DC can eventually get all their universe straightened out, there is no reason a Justice League movie couldn't blow up the box office like Marvel's 'Avengers' did."
Pandya agrees, crediting the success in part to the directors. "Other studios should learn to trust big franchises in the hands of talented directors and to keep fans engaged throughout the process so they feel like they are part of the team," he said. "Give audiences a solid piece of entertainment and they will reward you back with huge bags of cash."
Check out everything we've got on "The Avengers."