Women and 3D help 'The Avengers' set box office record

Women bought 40 percent of all tickets to 'The Avengers.' The action movie beat 'Harry Potter' in setting a first weekend box office record with $200 million in  ticket sales.

AP Photo/Disney, Zade Rosethal
Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, left, and Robert Downey Jr., who portraying Tony Stark, are shown in a scene from "Marvel's The Avengers."

"The Avengers" proved that five superheroes are better than one by bursting into Hollywood's record books with a massive $200.3 million in ticket sales over its opening weekend in US. and Canadian theaters, kicking off Hollywood's summer movie season with a bang.

The domestic debut for the big-budget, effects-filled movie from Disney's Marvel studios sped past last summer's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - Part 2," which opened with $169.2 million in its first weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. In March, "The Hunger Games" opened with $152.5 million, the fourth largest opening in box office history.

The North American record was foreshadowed by the strong box office a week ago, after it opened overseas in 39 countries and took in $185.1 million.

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The Avengers, which reunites Marvel comic heroes Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Black Widow, has collected $641.8 million since it opened in international markets on April 25.

"We keep thinking we have a sense of what this movie can do, or will do, and every time we get a report it does even better," said Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice-president of distribution. "This is very satisfying, to say the least."

Disney's aggressive marketing, which included promotions aimed at women that included sending stars to "The View" daytime talk show, resulted in women making up 40 percent of the audience for the action film, according to Disney's survey. Half the audience was also over 25 years of age, the studio also said.

Winner of the past two weekends, Sony's romantic comedy "Think Like a Man," slipped to second place with $8 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters, according to Hollywood.com.

"Hunger Games," from Lions Gate Entertainment, took the No. 3 spot in its seventh week in theaters, with $5.7 million, and has collected $380.7 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters during its run.

Warner Brothers' "The Lucky One" landed in fourth place with $5.5 million, and the animated film "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" from Sony finished in fifth place with $5.4 million.

The undisputed success of "Avengers" brought Disney the type of redemption that Hollywood loves to put on screen. In March, Disney released the expensive sci-fi adventure film "John Carter," one of the biggest flops in box office history. The company said it expects to lose up to $200 million on that film.

"Avengers" is the first Marvel film released by Disney since the media and theme park giant purchased Marvel Entertainment Inc in 2009 for $4 billion, a move to expand its appeal to boys with a stable of superheroes.

Disney would not say whether it plans to make a sequel. Sequels to films based on the Thor and Iron Man characters are scheduled for next year and Captain America in 2014.

About 52 percent of "The Avengers" ticket sales came from higher-priced 3D tickets, Disney said. The film sold more than $15 million in tickets on 275 digital-only large-screen IMAX theaters, IMAX said, which it said would tie it with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - Part 2" for its highest grossing opening weekend.

The first weekend in May kicks off Hollywood's summer movie-going season, a four-month period typically filled with big-budget action movies and sequels. Coming movies include Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Men in Black 3," and "Battleship."

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