Could ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Be the First $1 Billion Domestic Grosser in Initial Release? We Do the Numbers

"Endgame" should beat "Avatar" and could make the top ten of all time.
"Avengers: Endgame"

With an official Monday domestic gross of $37.6 million, “Avengers: Endgame” (Disney) confirms the promise of the weekend’s massive $357 million domestic take ($1.2 billion worldwide). The 22nd Marvel movie is poised to end up as one of the biggest-grossing theatrical releases of all time.

While the “Endgame” weekend gross bested prior record-holder “Avengers: Infinity War” by 37%, Monday wasn’t a record because it had to beat the holiday Monday numbers notched by “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Thor (Chris Hemsworth)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019
“Avengers: Infinity War”Marvel

With just four days to measure, estimating an ultimate gross is risky, but comparing the box-office trajectory of “Endgame” to the very similar “Infinity War” a year ago gives a strong sense of where it’s headed. Next weekend will provide critical evidence where it will end up (“Infinity” fell 55% on its second). But “Endgame” with a Monday of $36.7 million ($10 million better than “Infinity”) also showed a better percentage of the weekend: “Endgame” did 10.4% as much business as the prior three days, while “Infinity” did 9.6%. That suggests huge momentum and sustained interest, enough to make some initial high-end projections.

The first is easy to make. “Endgame” will become the biggest Marvel and comic book adaptation title ever, at least domestically. It needs to pass $700 million to get there. That’s less than double its weekend gross. It’s going to do way better. This is not a “Batman v Superman” scenario, which indicated signs of weakness early on– and still doubled its initial gross.

Calculating the multiple: how many times better will the final gross will be than the first weekend? For all types of comic book movies, the norm is 2.9 times. In recent years, two word-of-mouth hits titles, “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther,” overcame initial resistance due to gender/racial diversity and ultimately delivered astounding 4 and 3.5 multiples respectively. But the higher the opening the more difficult to achieve as high a multiple.

Given that the Monday “Endgame” number beat last year’s “Infinity War,” which yielded a 2.6 times multiple, our initial conservative guess is that “Endgame” will gross at least 2.7 times its opening. The result would be an astounding $964 million total.

In order to accurately reflect relative success and not distort popularity by pretending that ticket prices have remained consistent, when gauging comparative grosses and records, we are using adjusted, not “actual” numbers. Without an adjusted gross, as soon as “Endgame” passes $937 million, it will beat the current “record holder” “Star Wars: Force Awakens.” At that point, the media will acclaim “Endgame” as the biggest hit ever.

“Endgame” notches a new Marvel record, beating the top performer “The Avengers” by more than $200 million. This is spectacular: even the finale of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the Oscar-sweeping “Return of the King,” only beat the first by $64 million.

Even in a glut of Marvel films, with eight Marvel titles in fifteen months, and “Endgame” coming just weeks after blockbuster “Captain Marvel,” audiences can’t get enough. That portends well for the future, to put it mildly.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”Walt Disney Studios

Compare that to the trajectory of the recent “Star Wars” revival. “Force Awakens,” the first, remains by far the biggest–it’s adjusted gross is $974 million. Offshoot “Solo” could only muster $205 million last year, less than “Endgame” took in by Saturday matinees. That tired franchise is headed for a hiatus, while Marvel just keeps getting bigger. Overtaking “Force Awakens,” would be a huge accomplishment.

“Endgame,” while it’s not going to be the biggest movie of all time, is going to easily blow past “Avatar” ($877 million adjusted) even in adjusted numbers. James Cameron’s 2009 release had its time as the supposed “biggest all-time” in raw numbers.

“Gone with the Wind”

At this point — and again, we’ll be much smarter next weekend— “Endgame” looks to become one of the top 12-grossing domestic films in a century. And let’s go back to that earlier comic-book average multiple of 2.9. If “Endgame” were to achieve this, that total figure could end up at $1,035,000,000. That would be a staggering achievement. No film has ever reached $1 billion domestic at the time of release. With multiple releases, in adjusted numbers, only eight films have passed this benchmark: “Gone With the Wind,” “Star Wars,” “The Sound of Music,” “E.T.,” “The Ten Commandments,”  “Titanic,” “Jaws,” and “Dr. Zhivago.”

$1 billion would place “Endgame” ahead of the adjusted “The Exorcist,” “The Godfather,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Ben Hur,” “Jurassic Park,” and way ahead of “The Godfather” and the biggest Bond film (“Thunderball”).

That might not sound as sexy as being the #1 top-grosser of all time. But it may the first to reach $1 billion in initial release. And that’s a worthy milestone.

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