(Bloomberg) -- “Avengers: Infinity War” kicked off the summer movie season, giving Walt Disney Co. the largest North American and global debuts in history.
“Infinity War” took in a record of more than $640 million worldwide. An estimated $257.7 million of that was collected in U.S. and Canadian theaters, researcher ComScore Inc. said Monday, beating independent forecasts of about $230 million. The blockbuster film also earned $382.7 million overseas, where it has opened almost everywhere worldwide.
The film’s success was driven by a decadelong buildup of movies and comic stories from the Marvel franchise, as well as being able to open earlier than usual for a summer movie. A marketing campaign to avoid spoilers also drove the high attendance levels, spread with the hashtag #thanosdemandsyoursilence.
“They’ve created stakes because of how much people care for these characters and the worlds that they inhabit, and having brought them all together, that made this a can’t-miss, must-see-it on opening weekend, must-see-it-in-a-movie-theater kind of experience,” Dave Hollis, president of worldwide theatrical distribution for Disney, said Sunday.
The global record is notable because the movie hasn’t opened in China yet, the second biggest market, where it debuts May 11. Hollis said the franchise has a strong record in China, giving the studio “tremendous self confidence” in the movie’s performance there.
Opening in more than 4,470 North American theaters, “Avengers: Infinity War” marks the widest debut for a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Rivals avoided the weekend, meaning the Marvel superhero mashup faced no competition from other new releases. The film’s success benefited from a date change that let it debut worldwide simultaneously -- a first for Disney’s Marvel movies.
The film is one of five summer movies from Disney that are all likely to be popular. The Burbank, California-based company is already far ahead of rivals this year thanks to the $1 billion-plus generated by “Black Panther,” a fresh hit from the company’s Marvel superhero library.
Disney had 26 percent of the domestic box office heading into the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. The company’s summer slate, which includes another Marvel movie and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” will be key in reviving the North American box office and generating growth for theater owners after a tough 2017.
The better-than-expected performance will also hearten box-office bulls like Adam Aron, chief executive officer of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., who told Bloomberg News in an interview last week that he sees a “glorious ” year for largest U.S. theater chain.
Disney rose 1.1 percent to $100.33 at the close in New York. The stock is down 6.7 percent this year.
While Disney began with a more cautious forecast of $210 million for the three-day opening weekend, the company on Friday raised that estimate to $225 million. Independent forecasters were more bullish on “Infinity War.” Analysts at Box Office Pro were predicting as much as $255 million in domestic weekend sales.
“Infinity War” cost $300 million to make, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, and many tens of millions more to market.
In this installment, the superheroes mount an all-out effort to defeat Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, who is seeking to collect six Infinity Stones. The fate of Earth, and existence itself, hang in the balance.
The movie features the return of popular actors such as Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, as well as Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. It is the first of a two-part superhero story, with the second installment expected to land next year.
Critical reviews weren’t as strong as those for other Marvel films, which led analysts to say that could affect how the movie performs in coming weeks. Only 76 percent of top critics gave it positive reviews, compared with 85 percent of all critical reviews aggregated by Rottentomatoes.com.
That’s a lower rating than the first “Avengers” movie in 2012 or “Black Panther.” Metacritic, another review tracker, had 68 positive reviews, fewer than the tally for “Black Panther” but more than 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” at 66.
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