Can ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ open bigger at the box office than the first ‘Avengers’?

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is now a little over three weeks from opening and, surprise, it's going to be a monster at the box office.  Pre-release polling has it tracking slightly higher than “Marvel's The Avengers” which holds the record for the no. 1 opening of all-time.  Can “Ultron” pull off the unthinkable and set a new record?

Three years ago, “Marvel's The Avengers” shattered box office records earning $207.4 million over its first three days and nothing has come close to that level of dominance since.  Up until that point, the weekend box office title was in the tenuous grasp of the final “Harry Potter” film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2,” which earned $169.1 million just six months before “The Avengers” debuted.  In the three years since “The Avengers” set the bar the only two films that have been able to open over $160 million are “The Dark Knight Rises” with $160.8 million and “Iron Man 3” which pulled in $174.1 million the following year.

Basically, only a Marvel movie has come relatively close to “The Avengers” and even that movie wasn't that close.  The good news for those rooting for “Ultron” to take the crown is the increasing returns for the other Marvel franchises.  “Captain America: Winter Soldier” opened to $95 million last April after “Captain America: The First Avenger” found $65 million in July, 2011.  “Thor: The Dark World” took in $85.7 million in Nov. 2013 compared to “Thor's” $65.7 million in May, 2011. And, most impressively, the little known property “Guardians of the Galaxy” debuted to a massive $94.3 million last August.  

Marvel Studios may be a hit-making machine that Hollywood has not seen in some time, but history says we should give “Ultron” a little leeway if it doesn't match or exceed the original film's opening.  Again, in the three years since there hasn't been one movie that's reached the $180 million, $190 million or $200 million mark.  Even with lower ticket prices, “The Dark Knight's” $158.4 million gross in 2008 was jaw-dropping.  $200 million seemed like a pipe dream back then.  

Our guess is “Age of Ultron” will cross $200 million during its first weekend, but come in slightly under the $207.4 million record.  If that does turns out to be the case anyone that even considers writing that its performance is disappointing needs to be thrown into the Negative Zone.  Frankly, any movie that can open to over $200 million million in 2015?  That's still something of a marvel.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” will open nationwide on May 1.