‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ on Track for $200 Million Opening Weekend

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After an introduction on screens in 44 international markets that hauled in about $201 million dollars, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuted Thursday night in the United States with ticket sales of $27.6 million. The latest installment of the franchise from Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) may be headed for an opening weekend in the United States that surpasses the first weekend of its predecessor, “The Avengers,” which grossed $207 million at its debut.

Estimates for gross receipts of the new film’s Friday opening have settled in a range of $85 million to $89 million, well ahead of its predecessor’s $81 million first Friday take. The weekend total could go as high as $210 million, according to some box office watchers, although Disney executives are managing expectations by forecasting a total of around $200 million.

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The year’s other blockbuster hit, “Furious 7” from Universal and Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA), added $69.7 million to its total last week, and it has now grossed more than $1 billion in international sales to go with some $324 million in domestic sales to move to fourth place on the worldwide all-time list of highest grossing films with $1.35 billion in sales, ahead of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and behind “The Avengers.”

In the international markets, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was the second-highest movie opening ever in South Korea, with sales of $28.2 million, according to a report at Box Office Mojo. That was slightly better than the $27.3 million in U.K. ticket sales. It managed a virtual tie with “Furious 7” for the biggest opening weekend ever in Russia, with $16.2 million in gross receipts.

Other top markets included Brazil ($13.1 million, second-highest opening all-time) and an equal amount in Australia, where it had the third-best opening ever. France ($12.4 million) and Germany ($9.3 million) were other top markets.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened on 4,276 U.S. screens, and there is general consensus that the film will easily top $1 billion. The first movie in the franchise posted a worldwide gross of $1.52 billion in 2012, and it is the third-highest grossing film of all time and the highest grossing movie of all time based on comic book characters. “Iron Man,” also from Disney, is the second-highest grossing comic book movie of all time, with gross receipts of $1.22 billion in 2013. The new Avengers film is likely to place third by the time its run is over.

The production budget for the film was a reported $250 million, meaning that it has already paid back all its production costs and profits should begin rolling in for Disney by sometime Saturday.

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