Surprise: ‘Age of Ultron’ doesn’t come close to setting the opening weekend record

This was slightly unexpected. Not only did “Avengers: Age of Ultron” not surpass the opening weekend of the first “Avengers,” but it didn't even cross the $200 million mark.  Hollywood thought it would be crowning a new weekend champion on Sunday, but instead its left wondering why “Age of Ultron” opened to just $191.3 million.

There are likely a number of contributing factors including the reported $400 million Americans spent on the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight on Saturday night as well as slightly less enthusiastic reviews than what the first “Avengers” received.  While being ranked at no. 2 is nothing to sneeze at, it might just point to the fact of how special the first “Avengers” opening was in 2012.  

“Marvel's The Avengers” opened on May 4, 2012 to an incredible $80.8 million which was the no. 2 single day until “Age of Ultron” opened this past Friday at $84 million.  Miraculously, however, the first “Avengers” dropped only 13.9% from Friday to Sunday and 18% from Saturday to Sunday.  “Ultron's” 32.3% Friday to Saturday drop and estimated 19.7% decline from Saturday to Sunday shows that much of the initial audience interest was built from hardcore fans.  To hit that $200 million mark, which no film has done in the three years since, you have to either have incredible word of mouth or naturally appeal outside your fan base.

Many believe that “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” will surpass “Marvel's The Avengers'” record.  “Ultron's” opening maybe a warning to movie fans, box office watchers and Walt Disney Studios to not over estimate or believe pre-release polling when they hit these sorts of levels.  For a business that has so much success mapping out final results based on historical data there is simply not a lot of comparables past the $150 million opening level.  Moreover, “Force Awakens” is opening on Dec. 18. There hasn't even been a $100 million opening in December.  2012's “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is the biggest December debut ever and it only took in $84.6 million.  No other December release has crossed the $80 million mark.  “Force Awakens” is debuting Dec. 18 which is also the last full shopping weekend before Christmas the following Friday.  No matter how anticipated, no matter how stratospheric tracking is you have to take that into account.  That being said, both films are long-term players.  “Ultron” should easily surpass $400 million domestic and “Force Awakens” has so little legitimate competition it could end up in the top 3 grossers of all-time.  But opening weekends?  It turns out “Marvel's The Avengers” may hold that record longer than we anticipated.

Check out the current top 10 opening weekends of all-time in the embedded gallery below.  Can you guess which franchise got knocked off the list of all-time greats?

Note: This post was updated on May 4 to reflect the final tally of $191.3 million versus the $187 million estimate announced on May 3.