A layman’s guide to the ridiculous amount of money ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is making.
Hey film nerd, are you BAD WITH NUMBERS? Me too. My brain auto-translates an article with digits and dollar signs into: “Wow, I guess that film is making a lot of money.” Was I to fall prey to a Jigsaw killer situation where my life depended on being able to explain how much money Avengers: Infinity War made and what that amount of money means in context—I would be very dead.
I am fine making origami swans with my liberal arts degree, but (and it’s a big but) I am genuinely interested in understanding box office shenanigans. Particularly when we’re talking about the profits of such a brazenly audacious cinematic experiment as Infinity War.
The film represents a large swath of what mainstream cinema looks like these days. And with Infinity War’s cultural weight in mind, questions like “how much money!?“ are worth tackling if only to feel a bit more grounded when the next box office recap shows up on your twitter feed featuring Josh Brolin’s purple, scrotum-chinned CGI face.
So, let’s hold hands and slog through the box office slurry together and try and see what we can learn about modern cinema along the way.
The Best Domestic Opening of All Time?
Infinity War easily secured its spot as having one of the all-time best domestic opening weekend debuts. But is it the best? Looking at it plainly, Infinity War shot past Star Wars: The Force Awakens to secure the title for the highest domestic opening weekend gross. But with inflation taken into account, it falls just short of first place.
Even when adjusted for inflation, though, Infinity War surpasses the standard set by its Marvel Cinematic Universe predecessors, easily overtaking the o.g. Avengers‘ opening of $234 million and Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s $203 million. More impressively, when international sales are taken into account, Infinity War is the new worldwide opening weekend champion with a stupefying total of $641 million.
The sheer insanity of Infinity War attaining this level of financial success as the 19th film in a planned-out franchise is worth keeping in mind. With Infinity War Infinity Warring all over the place, Disney now holds nine of the top 10 biggest openings in North American history. So if there was any lingering doubt vis a vis their cinematic dominion, consider it statistically squashed.
TOP 5 HIGHEST-GROSSING DOMESTIC OPENINGS (UNADJUSTED)
Avengers: Infinity War | $257,698,183
Star Wars: The Force Awakens | $247,966,675
Star Wars: The Last Jedi | $220,009,584
Jurassic World | $208,806,270
Marvel’s The Avengers | $207,438,708
TOP 5 HIGHEST-GROSSING DOMESTIC OPENINGS (ADJUSTED)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens |$261,077,600
Avengers: Infinity War |$257,698,200
Jurassic World |$231,838,200
Star Wars: The Last Jedi |$219,530,300
The Second-Best Second Weekend?
Hey, did you know that only five films have ever cracked $100 million in their second weekend of release? Want to take a guess at what studio was responsible for four out of those five films? It rhymes with Gisney.
A couple things are worth noting here. First, and this hot take has been beaten within an inch of its life so I won’t linger on it: most films to cross the $100 million mark in their sophomore weekend are shiny studio sequels, reboots, or adaptations. No surprises or value judgments there. Big expensive franchise tentpole films make big money. Tide goes in. Tide goes out.
The more interesting thing I want to highlight is how recent all these films are. Two of the five (Infinity War and Black Panther) came out this year, another two came out in 2015 (The Force Awakens and Jurassic World), and The Avengers came out in 2012. Even if we include inflation-adjusted titles, only two more slightly older movies join the fast and furious 100 million club: 2002’s Spider-Man and 2004’s Shrek 2.
Bluntly put: perhaps in an analog to 2018’s top-heavy attendance, big films are making more money earlier in their theatrical run than ever before. Maybe this has something to do with distinctly modern incentives to see big studio films in theaters sooner rather than later. These range from the innocuous (internet hype) to the more industry-threatening (piracy).
If you sneak a peek at the top fifth-weekend bracket, when adjusted for inflation the only film from the 2010s to crack the top ten is Disney’s Frozen, in eighth place. Obviously, this isn’t to say that big recent flicks like Black Panther don’t have staying power. But I do wonder if staying power is going to become more elusive (or at least, qualified) as ticket prices continue to climb, and audiences front-load their cinematic excursions.
Factors like wider releases, multiple screens, and the rise of the “cinematic event” are putting modern butts in seats and making a shitload of money. But breaking box office records is one thing, continuing to draw sizeable audiences willing to shell out for all-time high ticket prices weekend after weekend is another.
TOP 7 HIGHEST-GROSSING SECOND WEEKENDS (UNADJUSTED)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens | $149,202,860
Avengers: Infinity War |$114,774,810
Black Panther |$111,658,835
Jurassic World |$106,588,440
Marvel’s The Avengers |$103,052,274
Star Wars: The Force Awakens | $157,091,700
Jurassic World |$118,345,500
Marvel’s The Avengers |$116,251,100
Avengers: Infinity War |$114,774,800
Black Panther | $111,658,800
Shrek 2 | $106,454,200
Fastest to Reach $1 Billion at the Global Box Office
Way back in 2015, The Force Awakens took 12 days to drum up $1 billion worldwide. And sure as Thanos is a genocidal maniac, Infinity War edged out the competition in just 11 days after its release. It was unavoidable. Infinity War literally dominated international screens to the point where laws are being pushed through to combat screen monopolization.
Marvel Studios has a reputation for staggering their international release dates, but due to Infinity War’s big enormous spoiler of an ending, Marvel put in overtime to debut the film as internationally as possible by the end of April. Naturally, there were some exceptions, chief among them being China, which won’t see Infinity War on the big screen until May 11th. But the fact that Infinity War has yet to open in China, which is all but certain to be the film’s second-biggest market, makes the speed at which the film reached $1 billion all the more impressive.
If previous Chinese opening weekends of MCU fare are anything to go by, Infinity War is poised to rake in a sum higher than the global totals of other box-office-busting MCU films. Given Infinity War’s special “cinematic event 10 years in the making” circumstances, the actual haul will probably skew well above the $200 million-ish range of Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. Add in the fact that Infinity War’s only real imminent competition is Deadpool 2— which isn’t playing in China — and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some Very Big International Box Office Potential™.
TOP 5 FASTEST-GROSSING FILMS TO REACH $1 BILLION*
Avengers: Infinity War | 11 days
Star Wars: The Force Awakens | 12 days
Jurassic World | 15 days
Furious 7 | 17 days
The Fate of the Furious | 19 days
*While there’s no real inflation consideration in the traditional sense when it comes to international sales, the global box office has increased over the last couple of decades as more foreign territories have opened their theaters to North American films.
Fast Financial Facts
- Infinity War earned a 3.6x weekend multiplier, making it the leggiest of the big Avengers films, ahead of Avengers (3.55x) and Age of Ultron (3.38x). What’s a multiplier, you ask? It’s an objective measure of a film’s box-office stamina represented by the total gross unit divided by a different related gross unit. So, for example, if a film opened with $20m on Friday for a $60m Fri-Sun debut weekend, that would be described as a 3x weekend multiplier.
- Infinity War’s 56% drop between its first and second weekend is the second biggest for any $200m+ opener and significant enough for the film to fall behind the likes of The Avengers, Jurassic World, and Spider-Man.
- In addition to Infinity War, the other MCU films to surpass $1 billion globally include The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Black Panther, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: Civil War.
- Infinity War made $450.8 million in the first 10 days of its release, which puts it smack dab between the adjusted domestic lifetime totals of The Dark Knight Rises ($448m) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($459m).
- Less a financial fact than a financial wish, but I really do hope that Infinity War’s lifetime domestic gross (currently sitting pretty at $461 million) overtakes Avatar’s $760 million because the idea of a pissed off James Cameron ruing the day while firing up the Avatar 2 kiln tickles me.
So, in conclusion (and in context), I think it’s safe to say that Disney’s plan regarding big franchise tentpoles is as follows: