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Yes, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Box Office Was Massive, But It Fell Short of Expectations

Welcome to the early-adopter audience, where a film can make $2.8 billion worldwide and, by week four, no longer hold the top spot.

Avengers: Endgame

“Avengers: Endgame”

Marvel

After its fourth weekend, “Avengers: Endgame” is the biggest grossing domestic hit in more than three years with $771 million in North America. Its final achievement will be profound — but it also comes awfully early, as “John Wick 3” now holds the number-one spot. The Marvel movie’s April 25 release is not quite a month old, but unlike prior all-time hits, it’s no longer driving the most business.

Here’s where we stand, with some projections, records made, and context compared to other huge hits:

Final Domestic Gross: About $850 Million

No one can complain about $850 million. At a minimum, “Endgame” will be the second-biggest film in a decade that has seen the business turn itself over to blockbusters. It comes in an era in which comic-book titles, Marvel ones in particular, are a mature force. So while it’s a great gross, it’s less than what was anticipated after a record $357 million opening that suggested a $900 million total as the low end of likely final take.

Box-office analysts use history, math, and multiples to guess totals and at $850 million, the multiple would be just under 2.4. That compares to 3.8 times for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and 2.6 for “Avengers: Infinity War.” The lowest for a Marvel film was “Captain America: Civil War,” which fell just under 2.3.

Also boosting hopes for “Endgame” was an A+ Cinemascore and a history of repeat viewings among core fans. Not adjusting for inflation, it needed to get to $937 million to topple “Force Awakens” — a film that benefitted from Christmas play time, fewer initial screens, and arguably a stronger event factor as the reboot of a franchise.

Worldwide Should Top $2.8 Billion

Global totals are now $2.617 billion, with another $200 million anticipated. That will easily clear $2.8 billion, and give it consideration as the “biggest ever” film. It will also reach just over or under $2 billion international, which will have an impact on its “all time” placements.

The split will be around 70% foreign, 30% domestic. That’s a lower foreign performance than “Fast and Furious,” Bond, and “Harry Potter,” but significantly above “Star Wars,” Disney/Pixar animation, and comic-book movies like “Black Panther,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Captain Marvel” that veered from white male heroes.

"Avengers: Endgame"

“Avengers: Endgame”

Marvel

“Endgame” set its own records

When it opened at $357 million, that represented 89% of the total for all films that weekend — an all-time high. It had more theaters, and more total screens and seats, than any film in history, with showtimes covering at least 18 hours a day for the first weekend. However, that strategy also led to a much shorter shelf life.

Based on an $850 million domestic final gross, 91% of its total will come through its fourth weekend. That’s the peak of a trend that’s been on the uprise for decades; earlier-era smashes like “Gone With the Wind” and “The Sound of Music” took a month or more to even reach the biggest cities, then played limited dates for up to a year before any sort of wide release. In the 21st century, 80% was the fourth-weekend norm; “Black Panther” hit that mark, while “Force Awakens” was 87% and “Infinity War” was 88%.

Unadjusted, the fourth weekend for “Endgame” was the fifth biggest behind “Avatar,” “The Force Awakens,” “Black Panther,” and the original “Avengers.” Once it’s adjusted for inflation, however, “Endgame” comes in at only #29 —behind “Monsters, Inc.,” “Twister,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and “Elf.”

With the rise of Fandango and the presold popular films, audiences demand immediacy. (No different than “Game of Thrones,” with rabid fans who want to see it live.) With business that makes itself known early, the 90-day theatrical window looks increasingly antiquated. Those who want to see mostly don’t want to delay their experience, making the argument for waiting three months harder to swallow.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Where “Endgame” ranks, (un)adjusted 

No need to recap the debate over adjusted vs. unadjusted gross, but here’s where it will stand in both:

Domestic

Unadjusted, “Endgame” is now #2, having edged out “Avatar.” That’s where it will stay, with “Force Awakens” safe at $937 million.

Adjusted, “Endgame” is likely to take the #17 slot currently held by “Return of the Jedi” at $847 million. To make the top 15, it would need to pass “Avatar” at $877 million, which is very unlikely. Among 21st =-century titles, it looks to be third best behind “Force Awakens” and “Avatar.” Among films in the last 25 years, it would rank #4, with “Titanic” still a quarter billion dollars better than any domestic release since.

Worldwide

Unadjusted, “Endgame” should have the highest recorded gross at around $2.85 billion. The current record is “Avatar” at $2.787 billion.

Adjusted, “Titanic” has a clear lead at about $3.8 billion, “Gone With the Wind” roughly $3.5 billion, and “Avatar” third with $3.2 billion. Fourth place looks like its landing spot.

International

Unadjusted, this is going to be the closest call. Foreign so far is $1.845 billion; “Avatar” grossed $2.027 billion. “Endgame” is $182 million short, so it could be close.

Adjusted, “Endgame” will trail only “Titanic” ($2.66 billion) and “Avatar” ($2.3 billion) in tickets sold. It’s reasonable to accept that recent films are the biggest; the international market has never been so dominant and accessible to studio made films. But James Cameron still rules.

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