By Anousha Sakoui and Sarah Ponczek
Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer movie season, giving Walt Disney the largest North American and global debuts in history.
Infinity War took in a record $640.9m (€528.25m) worldwide, the studio said. An estimated $258.2m of that was collected in US and Canadian screens, beating independent forecasts of about $230m. The blockbuster also earned $382.7m across other parts of the world. Its success was driven by a decade-long build-up 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.
“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-theatre kind of experience,” Dave Hollis, president of worldwide theatrical distribution for Disney, said.
The global record is notable because the movie hasn’t opened in China yet, the second biggest market, where it debuts on May 11. Mr 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 ciemas, Avengers: Infinity War marks the widest debut for a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.
Rivals avoided the week-end, meaning the Marvel superhero mash-up 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 company is already far ahead of rivals this year thanks to the $1bn-plus generated by Black Panther, a fresh hit from the company’s Marvel superhero library.
Disney had 26% 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.
Disney shares rose 1.7%, valuing the company at almost €125.3bn.
Disney has distributed nine of the top 10 biggest domestic debuts of all time, and Infinity War ranks first on the list, followed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.