Kicking off the summer at the North American box office, Disney and Marvel Studios' Avengers: Age of Ultron grossed a massive $84.5 milion on Friday, the biggest opening day for a superhero film and the second biggest of all time after the final Harry Potter film ($91.7 million).
On the same weekend in 2012, The Avengers earned $81 million on its first Friday for a record-breaking weekend debut of $207.4 million, the largest opening weekend in history, not accounting for inflation. Most box office observers believe Age of Ultron will narrowly become the new record-holder with $208 million or more, although Disney insiders are being more conservative and saying $200 million-plus for the weekend.
Whether the sequel can surprass The Avengers depends upon how much traffic drops on Saturday. One wild card is the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight Saturday night, since the PPV event could impact moviegoing among males. Cable and satellite providers are charging $89.95 to watch the fight, and an extra $10 for HD.
Either way, Marvel Studios will now claim the top three opening weekends of all time domestically, between Avengers, Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3, which debuted to $174.1 million in May 2013. Age of Ultron pushes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -; Part 2 ($169.2 million).
Globally, Age of Ultron has already jumped the $300 million mark, thanks to an early foreign cume of $287 million.
Thursday night, Age of Ultron took in a hefty $27.6 million as it began rolling out in North America, compared to $18.7 million for The Avengers (Thursday's gross was rolled into Friday's tally).
Early exits show that 60 percent of the audience is male, with nearly 60 percent of all ticket buyers are under the age of 25.
Last weekend, Age of Ultron opened in 55 percent of the international marketplace, grossing a dazzling $201 million and coming in 44 percent ahead of the first film.
Age of Ultron is rolling out in a raft of additional foreign markets this weekend, including Mexico, where it scored the top opening day of all time Thursday with $6.8 million. In many markets, the movie will be helped by the May Day holiday.
In North America, presales for Age of Ultronare equal to presales for all previous Marvel films combined, according to Fandango, while MovieTickets.com reports that advance sales are nearly four times greater than The Avengers.
Imax locations are already delivering big results. Thursday night's contribution was $3 million, a record showing for Thursday night previews. The Dark Knight was the previous best with $2.3 million.
Age of Ultron, costing $250 million to make, returns Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffaloas the Hulk, Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. The ensemble cast also includes Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle and Paul Bettany. This time, the superheroes and their allies must work together to stop Ultron (James Spader), who intends to destroy the world.
May 2, 7:55 a.m. Updated with Friday estimates.