Poor Marvel and Disney. Avengers: Age of Ultron only had the second-highest opening weekend ever with $191 million in three days. That’s it. Ride’s over. Been fun. Pack up the spandex and magic hammers and green body paint, we’re done here.
The Empire Strikes Back made less than Star Wars. Temple of Doom made less than Raiders of the Lost Ark. And I’m pretty sure those series limped along somehow afterward.
It’s not easy following up a cultural event, which is what the first Avengers was. There’s only going to be one time those characters appeared together for the first time. And there was a lot going on that opening weekend for Ultron: NBA and NHL playoffs, the NFL Draft, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. Now you can argue an event film should override those considerations, but all those things were only happening on that Saturday; Ultron‘s going to be in theaters for a while. It wasn’t life or death to see it last weekend.
And with all that, it still pulled in $191 million! And it’s sitting at just under $700 million worldwide. So let’s not go mourning the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe just yet. The story on Ultron isn’t told yet, and even if it doesn’t come close the first film’s take, it’s not the end of the four-colored world.
As for new releases … nearly everyone ceded the field to Ultron. But the one wide release might just do all right for itself. In contrast to its testosterone-fueled competition, Hot Pursuit is a comedy with two female leads. It’s a smart counter-programming move, especially considering the two stars, Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon, are both well-known, well-liked, and, in Witherspoon’s case, have headlined moneymakers before. It’s got a modest budget of $35 million, so it doesn’t need to come bursting out of the gate, and there will definitely be people who don’t want to deal with Ultron‘s crowds. Notting Hill pulled it off opening up against The Phantom Menace, and that was a much bigger wall to bang your head against.
As for Age of Ultron, next week the serious punchers start wading in, with Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2 joining the fray. Ultron should easily be closing in on $300 million domestic by then. How close to — or far over — that mark before the stronger competition rolls in will go a long way towards determining if it can stay in the same box office neighborhood as the first film. Regardless, the next one is still coming. And we’ll probably go through all this hand-wringing with that one too, while Disney just sits back and keeps counting the wads of money some people somehow think isn’t enough.