Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame has grossed $1.2bn in its opening weekend worldwide, shattering records for the biggest global launch for any film and underscoring Disney’s dominance of the movie business.
Endgame is the first film to make a billion dollars at its opening, crossing that line in just five days. It grossed nearly double that of the previous record holder, which was last year’s Avengers film, Infinity War, which made $640m in its opening weekend excluding China.
Marvel’s roaring success is an affirmation of Disney’s strategy of funnelling its resources into blockbuster franchises. Disney has four more key releases coming later this year: Frozen 2, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Lion King, and Toy Story 4. This is Marvel’s eighth film to gross $1bn.
Endgame is the culmination of an expansive universe that began with the release of Iron Man in 2008. The series has spanned 22 films over the past decade that have brought in $19.9bn in total for Disney-owned Marvel Studios. Endgame sees superheroes like Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and Captain Marvel unite for a showdown with Marvel supervillain Thanos, who wiped out half the population with an infamous snap of his fingers.
The smash hit comes at a critical moment for Disney, as it embarks on a high-stakes push to counter the forces of Netflix and other technology groups that have upended Hollywood. The world’s largest traditional media company this month laid out ambitious plans for a streaming service, called Disney+, that will rely on shows and films from its popular franchises such as Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars.
Investors and analysts have cheered Disney’s plans, sending the stock up by 20 per cent since its investor day presentation about the service. “Perhaps the simplest takeaway from Disney’s shock-and-awe analyst day is that, well . . . there is only one Disney,” said analysts at MoffettNathanson. “No one else has Disney’s collection of franchises.”
However Disney has also come under fire recently by heiress Abigail Disney, granddaughter of co-founder Roy Disney. Ms Disney said the $65.7m that the company’s chief executive Bob Iger earned last year was “insane”. She has called on the group to cut bonuses for top executives by half and give the money to its lowliest paid workers. She said her perspective had been informed by speaking to employees earning the company’s $15 minimum hourly wage, some of whom were struggling to pay medical bills.
Mr Iger has overseen the lucrative acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, and his compensation last year included $26.3m of restricted stock units to reward him for the acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment businesses.
The overwhelming demand for Endgame, which has a run time of three hours, has prompted movie chains such as AMC to keep some of their theatres open around the clock this week. AMC said it would hold 58,000 screenings of the movie across the US in its opening weekend.
In China, a key battleground for Hollywood studios, the latest Avengers movie brought in a record $331m over five days. Globally, Endgame was the highest opening weekend in 44 markets including the UK, Brazil and Australia.
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
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