If there's a recipe for today's movie blockbusters, the performance this past weekend of Avengers: Age of Ultran, shows that Disney (DIS) retains an unparalleled mastery of building brands that transcend filmmaking.
Despite going head-to-head with the heavily hyped pay-per-view boxing match between Ray Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, Avengers: Age of Ultron posted weekend box-office sales of $187.7 million, earning the distinction as the second-largest North American opening weekend of all-time. Although the Avengers sequel was unable to best the original Avengers film from 2012, Marvel films still hold the top three slots on the box office all-time list with Iron Man 3 ranking third.
The Avengers sequel had been forecast to top its predecessor, but Disney had the bad luck of going head-to-head with a mass market sporting event that exceeded expectations. Pay-TV channels were scrambling just after midnight Saturday to handle a surge on pay-per-view demand. On Friday, it looked as though Ultron might break all records when box-office receipts hit $84.5 million, but the fight clipped those aspirations.
Nonetheless, surpassing the $100 million mark over the weekend proved that Disney had done its work, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for the global media measurement firm, Rentrak.
"Very few films even have a shot at reaching that kind of height in the opening weekend," Dergarabedian said. "It shows you the massive level of interest that Marvel movies generate. This may be the brand [for Disney] that instills the most excitement."
This is Disney's sixth Marvel film, and the animation studio has proved to be a powerhouse, helping drive Disney's stock price to a 17% advance this year compared to the S&P 500 which has only gained 2.4%.
Using Marvel as a blueprint, Disney has begun adapting their classic animated films to live action, driving the box office successes of Frozen and Cinderella and Maleficent; Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, and Pinocchio are on the way. Even Disney's original films opening this summer like Tomorrowland and Pixar's Inside Out are part of a franchise.