By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Avengers: Age of Ultron" scored the second-biggest domestic opening in history this weekend, kicking off summer blockbuster season with a mammoth $187.7 million debut.
Globally, the film is a juggernaut, pulling in an estimated $627 million in 12 days of release. At that pace, "Avengers: Age of Ultron" should pass $1 billion, particularly after it opens in China on May 12.
One record remained tantalizingly out of grasp for Captain America, Iron Man and company, however. Going into the weekend many analysts predicted that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" would top the $207.4 million haul posted in 2012 by the first film in the super-team series. That box office high-water mark will stand... at least until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" lands in theaters this Christmas.
Part of the issue may have been weaker reviews than the first "Avengers" film, as well as competition from the NBA playoffs, the Kentucky Derby and the hotly anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
The "Avengers: Age of Ultron" results are still an astonishing feat and a testament to the powerful sway that Disney and Marvel have over moviegoers around the world. The three biggest North American debuts in history are now all Marvel movies, with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" displacing "Iron Man 3" and its $174.1 million opening from its runner-up perch on the all-time list.
"It would be a shame to see headlines saying 'Avengers 2' fails by not setting opening weekend records," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. "This is still a massive debut, but there's something about the movie industry where people feel every weekend should set a new record."
Roughly $18 million of "Avengers'" opening weekend loot came from 364 Imax screens, while premium large format screens scored a record $13.5 million haul. The film played broadly across demographic categories. Roughly 59% of the audience was male, 41% was 25 years and older, 12% were teenagers and 22% were families. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" carries $250 million in production costs and screened in 4,276 North American locations.
Earth's Mightiest Heroes didn't leave much left over for other films in the marketplace. A vast chasm exists between the first and second place finishers on the domestic charts, with "Age of Adaline" clocking in behind "Avengers: Age of Ultron" with $6.3 million, bringing Lionsgate's romantic fantasy's total to $23.4 million.
Universal's "Furious 7" nabbed third place with $6.1 million, bringing its stateside plunder to $330.5 million. The action sequel is now the fourth highest-grossing film of all time on a worldwide basis with $1.4 billion in tickets sold.
Fourth place went to Sony's "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" at roughly $5.4 million, bringing its domestic score to $51 million, while DreamWorks Animation's "Home" came in fifth with $3.3 million pushing its total to $158.1 million.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight's "Far From the Madding Crowd" grossed $172,000 from five markets over in its opening weekend for a per screen average of $17,200. The indie label will add 19 new markets next weekend and plans to get to approximately 95 theaters by the Mother's Day weekend. Fox Searchlight used the same weekend last year to launch "Belle," another art house film pegged at older, affluent female crowds.
"It's a classic, beautifully shot period piece and we feel that it's a film that will work perfectly for Mother's Day," said Frank Rodriguez, senior vice president of distribution at Fox Searchlight.
The overall box office topped out at $227 million thanks largely to the costumed heroes. That represented a sizable 47.3% increase over the same weekend last year when "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" bowed to $91.6 million.