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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson
Woodland Hills, California, United States
April 02
A ten-year Salon reader, Mendelson also has a film and politics blog/column at Mendelon's Memos: located at: He is also a free lance voice over artist and occasionally contributes film reviews for

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Editor’s Pick
MAY 7, 2012 12:12PM

The Avengers's debut is even more impressive than you think.

Rate: 7 Flag
Ten years ago, Spider-Man shocked the industry by grossing more than $100 million in a single weekend.  Five years ago, Spider-Man 3 broke the $150 million weekend barrier.  This weekend, The Avengers has blown through the $200 million barrier, delivering a record opening weekend of $207.1 million in high style.  Yes, the number is beyond huge, besting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II by $38 million.  But the total weekend number only tells part of the story.  Arguably as important as the massive three-day figure is the manner in which it was earned.  First of all, The Avengers is the first film in modern times (going back to Batman 23 years ago) to break the opening weekend record without shattering the opening day record.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II still holds the record for the biggest single day, biggest opening day, and biggest Friday with $91 million.  The Avengers earned a massive $80 million on its first Friday, good for the second-highest single day of all time.  But for the last several years, massive opening weekends of this nature have been predicated on overly front-loaded opening days, in turn predicated on frontloaded midnight showings.  Harry Potter 7.2 made $43 million at midnight alone, or 25% of its $169 weekend total.  The Hunger Games did 12% of its $152 million debut at midnight.  Twilight Saga: New Moon did 18% of its $142 million debut at midnight alone.  The Avengers did just 9% of its gross, or $18.7 million, at midnight. This means that the film played obscenely well all weekend, not just on opening day for frenzied fans.

In terms of single-day records, The Avengers actually did break one Friday record, as it made $61 million not-counting midnight screenings, crushing the $49 million 'regular business hours' Friday grosses of Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II.  It handedly broke both the Saturday and Sunday records by wide margins.  The Avengers actually made more on Saturday ($69 million) and it did during 'normal business hours' on Friday, besting Spider-Man 3's $51 million Saturday record.  And while final figures could change, The Avengers grossed $59 million on Sunday, crushing the $43 million earned by The Dark Knight on its first Sunday.  The Avengers did not have a sub-2.0x weekend multiplier like the last Harry Potter film, or the barely-2.0x multiplier like the last couple Twilight films, and The Hunger Games.  The Avengers pulled a rock-solid 2.57x weekend multiplier.  That's the kind of consistency you rarely find with big opening weekends, let alone monstrous record-setters like this.  The film earned an A+ from Cinemascore, and these numbers bare that out. The picture played 50% over/under 25 years old and 60% male.  It earned a surprising 52% of its gross in 3D ticket sales with 8% of that being from IMAX.  So yes, even without the 3D bump, it still would have set a new opening weekend record (around $175 million, although theoretical 2D IMAX showings would have had the same 'bump' as 3D IMAX showings). And yes even with inflation factored in, the film sold more tickets over its opening weekend than any other film ever (26.5 million tickets, about 3.5 million more than The Dark Knight).   The Avengers played all weekend to packed houses all day and night for audiences of all shapes and sizes.  And, if only judging by my Twitter feed, there was lots of repeat business just over the weekend.

I may have token issues with the film in terms of its worth as a piece of art (non-spoiler review and spoiler discussion).  But as a big-budget spectacle rooted in characters worth cheering for, the picture absolutely delivers the kind of popcorn entertainment that these kind of films often fail to deliver.  Marvel did the groundwork over the last four years, releasing stand-alone films that introduced most of these heroes in their solo adventures, and this was the glorious pay-off.  This was the first Marvel film distributed by Disney, as Paramount sold the rights to their Marvel characters to the Mouse House back in 2010.  While I may carp about the quality of the marketing materials (mediocre trailers, hilariously photo-shopped posters), they did take the time and money to guarantee curiosity and awareness, while the film's quality was the most potent tool in creating interest outside of the die-hards, as Disney correctly screened the film early and often to create a typhoon of buzz heading into its domestic debut.  Opening weekend is usually more about marketing than the quality of the film, but the consistent numbers clearly show that the film's quality was a key component of the marketing campaign.  Still, if I may, I'd like to take a moment to remember the stellar marketing work that Paramount has done with the prior five films, starting with marketing a B-level hero (Iron Man) to a $100 million debut four years ago.  They sold Thor despite having little buzz-worthy footage and managed the tricky feat of turning Captain America into a global blockbuster.  Disney deserves plenty of credit for this weekend's debut, but let's not let Paramount become the Chris Columbus of Marvel marketing efforts (although Paramount will get their share of Avengers movie too).

Oh yeah, the film continued to burn up the foreign charts too, and the film now has $648 million worldwide, good for the top-grossing worldwide earner of 2012 (it will probably surpass The Hunger Games's domestically within a week, so I was wrong on that count).  How high it climbs is a complete mystery at this point.  The strong weekend multiplier, the rousing audience reactions, the strong replay value, and the comparative lack of competition over the next month (sorry Battleship... you're officially sunk) leaves the field open for a huge sprint.  In twelve days worldwide, it has outgrossed every prior Marvel movie on a worldwide scale outside of the first three Spider-Man films.  It outgrossed the domestic totals of The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America in three days.  In just three days, it is the 12th-highest grossing comic book film of all-time in America, and will surpass 300 ($210 million), and X2 ($214 million) tomorrow while passing X-Men: The Last Stand ($234 million), Men In Black ($250 million), and Batman ($251 million) by Tuesday or Wednesday.  This isn't a guarantee, but if it can hold up and weather what should be a solid debut for Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, we *could* see the first $100 million second-weekend and a ten-day total dangerously close to $400 million.  Again, it's not just the three-day figure, but the manner in which it was earned.  This is no quick-kill blockbuster that dies off after the hardcore fans see it over opening weekend. Even a somewhat healthy 2.5x weekend-to-final gross multiplier gets the film a $517 million domestic total while a 3x multiplier has it flirting with besting Titanic's original theatrical release with $621 million (these pesky 3D reissues make everything more complicated). If it performs like The Dark Knight (3.3x multiplier), it ends with a stunning $683 million.  We'll know more next weekend, but for now, this is an incredible weekend performance by a film that was rewarded for delivering exactly what it promised.

For a look at the history of the opening weekend record-breaker, go HERE.

Scott Mendelson

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And it was a fun movie too!
We were waffling on whether to go see this film because we did not want to feel manipulated by Hollywood (yeah, right). ... We saw each of the individual films, and I see a screening of this in our future (probably this next weekend). Thanks for putting it into perspective for us.
10 - "the departed" - saw it, liked it, put it on my 2006 best-of list.
9 - "the constant gardener" - Review: (one of my first published reviews)
8 - "catch 22" - saw it on VHS back when they was the normal thing
7 - "three kings" - saw it on a first date w/ my first serious college girlfriend
6 - "the deer hunter" - Sorry, Chris Walken aside, I prefer Coming Home
5 - "rebel without a cause" - slightly overrated, but I'm a big Nicolas Ray fan overall (A Lonely Place being my favorite, followed by the way ahead of its time Larger Than Life)
4 - "brazil" - I've seen it, I'm just not sure which cut I've seen (it was *not* the "Love Conquers All" version).
3 - "one flew over the cuckoo's nest" - Saw it, liked it.
2 - "being there" - One of Peter Sellers's best performances
1 - "city of god" (in portugese, with subtitles) - Damn good (even in portugese *with* subtitles!)

What's your point?
an unexpected bonus to old age for me....comics i read growing up coming to the 'bad ones'...waitin for 'The Shield".
Here's the problem. Despite those big box office numbers...the movie was terrible. I mean was bad film making. It was boring and never engaged the audience to enter into the storyline. I was sulking the entire time...sad for Americans who work hard and take the kids to see a movie, and have to sit through a stinker, and pretend like they are enjoying it because they don't want to admit that such a hyped up, dramatized movie could be a bomb. Robert Downey Jr.'s movies are all bombs in my opinion. His ego and Golden American Everything Boy persona is not-believable.
Haven't seen it yet. My experience has been that most movies from the Marvel Franchise have been done pretty well overall since the latest iteration of the Spiderman series. When I mean done well, I say that from a movie making and CGI aspect in the technical sense. Being able to show superheroes on screen that -- you know -- LOOK like they're doing the same things as in the comics I read back in the early sixties to mid-eighties is freaking awesome, really.

That said, being something of a purist in comix and comics (I don't consider Graphic Novels in the same category) as well as a literal student of film for about four years, I can also appreciate the things that aren't being done as well.

I was actually very disappointed in "Thor" for reasons that go beyond technical issues and "faithful" renditions of comic to movie storylines. The changes made simply turned the story into something other than the Original Marvel Comics, "The Mighty Thor." I know, the moviemakers in Hollywood have to keep things "fresh" and trendy-topical, but as I recall, Thor's alter ego was something of a wimpish lawyer with a cane. Even the Daredevil (if only they could have found someone OTHER than Ben Affleck for the lead...) was better in my estimation in terms of translation.

I always thought Robert Downey, Jr. was going to be, since "Less Than Zero," another in the long list of actors who completely self-destructed a la John Belushi, Freddie Prinz (Sr.) and going all the way back through Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and even Montgomery Clift. Surprisingly, after literally two decades of heroin addiction, in and out of rehab, jail and several noteable and well publicized crash-and-burn "comebacks" I think perhaps Robert Downey may actually list in film history as one of the world's greater actors of the late twentieth century. I wish now only that he'd stretch his chops over meatier roles with greater depth -- or more romantic comedies.

IN any case, making money is something these films are supposed to be about, right? Summer Blockbusters are really few and farther between these days. So when one comes out, based on a franchise I literally grew up with and from which I learned to increase my vocabulary and comprehend the concept of "dialogue" vs. "dialog," I'm going to want to see it on a big screen.

In 3D? So don't care about it.

IN closing, my experience with Movie Reviews is that most film reviewers (ne; critics) are overtly antagonistic to Action, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Comic-Book-to-Film movies; panning them as frivolous fare or not really Art Film, as if most of them would know the difference between art and artistic over technically proficient or cinematagraphically rich. So, in that light and with that subtext in mind, I was glad to see your review and thought it was worthy of a reviwer's rating for certain.

PMd you as well.
....getting america (and some of the world) deeper and deeper into a mechanical, violently brutal and senseless world! Wonderful and on top of it....all that money that is ode to all brainless, brainwashed, escapist masses....
Btw, I am a sci-fi aficionado, but then it is another genre.....