Box Office Top 10 Film News

Box Office: 6 Reasons Why Avengers: Age of Ultron Failed to Outgross the First Avengers

Eight.

That’s how many films have opened to $150 million or more domestically.

Three.

That’s how many films have opened north of $170 million, and they’re all from Marvel Studios – Iron Man 3 ($174.1m), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.2m) and The Avengers ($207.4m).

So, sure, Age of Ultron didn’t quite live up to expectations. Pre-release tracking had us all believing the sequel to the third biggest film of all time was going to make anywhere between $200 and $220 million in its domestic debut, enough to easily challenge The Avengers’ $207m opening weekend record. Instead, Age of Ultron failed to even crack the $200m threshold. That’s not to say it should be regarded as a disappointment. As THR put it, “When a film gets to the level of Age of Ultron, no one is going on the attack against Marvel and Disney.” Age of Ultron is walking away with the silver medal in the race for the biggest opening weekend, but that’s a race in which the top three medalists are from the same corporate family. However, there were expectations which were not met. As such, it begs the question: What happened? Why didn’t Age of Ultron outgross the first Avengers?

Vulture asked that same question and came up with 5 semi-obvious answers:

  1. The marketing was too grim
  2. People simply don’t like this one as much as the first Avengers
  3. The Mayweather-Pacquaio fight siphoned away countless potential moviegoers
  4. The novelty has worn off
  5. Superhero fatigue may be setting in

Let’s walk through these one by one.

1. Was the marketing really too grim? Eh, it worked for Iron Man 3

aou01-oct25[Non-specific Spoiler] Someone dies in Age of Ultron, and by the end the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is significantly altered. However, it is just as packed with jokes and signature Joss Whedon plays on genre conventions as the first Avengers. Similar to the joke-filled climactic fight scene in Thor: The Dark World, the finale of Age of Ultron is almost surprisingly packed to the brim with one-liners and hilarious sight gags. Of course, that doesn’t last, what with someone eventually dying and everything, but still, remember that one time right before that when you were laughing at a punchline?

You wouldn’t have guessed any of that from the initial trailers, which pitched Age of Ultron as another all-too familiar “serious, dark sequel” filled with the Avengers frowning while civilians ducked for cover. It wasn’t until 2 months ago that we got a trailer which finally eased back on the serious and gave us plenty of the funny. Clearly, some people must have been misled by those early trailers which were not actually fair representations of what the movie was really going to be like.

Seriously, how did we not see this coming?
Seriously, how did we not see this coming?

It’s possible, but I doubt it played a significant role in downgrading Age of Ultron’s box office. Iron Man 3 also led with trailers which completely misrepresented the film, both in terms of the identity of the villain and overall tone of the story. They made it seem like they’d made a Christopher Nolan-esque Iron Man movie when in fact they’d made a distinctly Shane Black Iron Man movie, all buddy cop comedy, one-liners, Christmas setting, etc. That misdirection didn’t seem to hurt them at the box office, although being the first MCU release after The Avengers certainly helped with erasing any audience unease over the prospect of taking Ben Kingsley seriously when he hilariously mumbled, “You’ll never see me coming” in the trailers.

2. Do people not really like Age of Ultron as much as the first Avengers? Yep

Adjust your expectations accordingly.  Nothing quite as cool as this happens in Iron Man 3.
Adjust your expectations accordingly. Nothing quite as cool as this happens in Age of Ultron

Let’s look at the three metrics we have for this:

  • CinemaScore – Avengers = A+/Age of Ultron = A
  • RottenTomatoes – Avengers = 92%/Age of Ultron = 75%
  • Metacritic – Avengers = 69/Age of Ultron = 66

Other than RottenTomatoes, it’s not exactly like opening night audiences (CinemaScore) and critics (Metacritic) completely hated Age of Ultron. They simply didn’t like it quite as much as the first Avengers (which mirrors how I feel about it), and that has translated to a rather noticeably muted word-of-mouth compared to this time 3 years ago when anyone who claimed to dislike Avengers was practically shunned.

Social media has apparently been the far harsher judge, with many targeting Joss Whedon directly with their criticisms of his handling of the Black Widow/Hulk romance in the film. In the interest of preserving his own mental health, Whedon has simply cut his losses and deleted his Twitter account, an account he only ever created to help promote his movie adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

3. Was the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight really that big of a deal? Absolutely

Manny-Pacquiao-vs-Floyd-Mayweather-fight-of-the-centuryAccording to THR, “On Friday, Age of Ultron grossed a massive $84.5 million domestically, the biggest opening day for a superhero film and the second-biggest of all time after the final Harry Potter film ($91.7 million). In 2012, Avengers pulled in $80.8 million on its first Friday. However, Age of Ultron lagged behind Avengers on Saturday ($57.2 million versus $69.6 million).”

That’s because on Saturday Age of Ultron was briefly upstaged by a boxing match which had been 5 years in the making: Mayweather vs. Pacquaio, a remarkably pricy PPV event purchased by more than 3 million viewers and estimated to have grossed $400 million. That doesn’t even take into account the number of people who watched illegally thanks to streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscoope, or the countless viewing parties attended by families and friends. Overeall moviegoing actually tumbled 40% from Friday to Saturday in Los Angeles and San Francisco, far heavier in Hispanic markets like El Paso, Texas.

So, to horribly oversimplify it, the jocks briefly pushed aside the nerds, and the fight to save boxing put a dent in Age of Ultron. One rival studio executive told THR, “The fight dinged all films across the board. The numbers on Ultron are still phenomenal but definitely less than they would have been.” Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis is undeterred, “We are in a great place. And if someone didn’t see Ultron Saturay night, they will see it today or next week. And overseas, in local currency, we are pacing 31 percent ahead of the first Avengers.”

4. Has the novelty worn off? Yeah, but wasn’t that kind of inevitable?

civilwarfeat__spanI don’t know that I have ever been more excited to see a movie than I was May 4, 2012, sitting in a sold out IMAX theater waiting for The Avengers to start. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk were all going to be in the same movie together! And fighting eachother! Before they fought Loki! And it was being directed by the guy who made Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly!

Three years later, while I was excited to see Age of Ultron I kept thinking, “Yeah, but the one that’s going to be really good is Captain America: Civil War.” That’s because the Captain America movies have become unofficial mini-Avengers sequels, with Cap teaming up with Black Widow and Nick Fury to blow up SHIELD/Hydra in The Winter Soldier. Now, most of the Age of Ultron cast (minus Thor and Hulk) will re-team in Civil War along with introductions for Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and the currently uncast new Spider-Man. They’re just fighting a CGI robot in Ultron; they’re going to possibly fight each other in Civil War! That seems like something new.

Or at least it would if Warner Bros. didn’t already have Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Justice on the way (to be followed by two Justice League movies). In fact, in the three years since The Avengers shared cinematic universes have become the prevailing Hollywood trend, and although we haven’t actually seen that 22 Jump Street/Men in Black cross-over or all-female/all-male Ghostbusters team-up (and possibly never will) we’re constantly hearing about them in the rumor mill. The notion of well-known characters unexpectedly sharing the screen together is simply not as unexpected and new as it once was. Moreover, Marvel’s understandable decision to use the Captain America films to most directly address the fallout from the Avengers stories has actually served to somewhat weaken the uniqueness of the Avengers movies.

5. Is superhero fatigue setting in? Eh, maybe

ReleaseTimeline_2015-2020Age of Ultron is now the first Marvel Studios sequel to not top the opening weekend of its predecessor. Vulture expects the next Avengers film to suffer a similar fate, “I have no doubt that comic-book movies will continue to make bank, including the looming, two-part Avengers: Infinity War — I just think they’ll be hard-pressed to reach the massive totals that superhero movies made when this shtick all felt a little fresher. The peril to the shared cinematic universe is that they can get awfully packed with stray story lines as time goes on, and all the comic-book minutiae that Age of Ultron expects you to know will be doubled and quadrupled in the years to come, keeping the casual moviegoer at arm’s length.”

6. What about Furious 7?

Furious-7-1There is something familiar to this scenario: a summer blockbuster comes out the beginning of April and breaks box office records and sets franchise highs.   Then, the comic book movie opening in the first week of May, the official start of the summer movie season, opens short of expectations and fails to top its predecessor. Last year, it was Marvel’s Winter Soldier getting the one-up on Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 whereas this year it’s Universal’s Furious 7 one-upping Marvel’s Age of Ultron. It was easier to draw comparisons last year because both Winter Soldier and ASM 2 are comic book movies, with many arguing that Winter Soldier’s early release made ASM 2 feel less special. Furious 7 isn’t as easy to compare to Age of Ultron, yet it does seem fair to wonder if a big budget action movie turning into the fourth biggest of all time a month before summer officially started stole Age of Ultron’s thunder a little bit.

avengers-2-age-of-ultron-it-s-going-to-be-bigger-better-and-with-a-lot-more-hawkeye-27a0fae2-4330-484c-9560-6fdb3afc2408 Box office experts think Age of Ultron would have made $200m if not for the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight which really means they think the fight directly cost Marvel around $8m in lost (or delayed) business. So, if not for that fight we’d still be talking about a sequel which fell $8 million short of beating its predecessor, in which case we’d probably be blaming the grim marketing, lukewarm word-of-mouth, lack of novelty, superhero fatigue, and Furious 7.  As it is, we’re still talking about a movie that made over $190m this weekend, is setting opening weekend records all over the world, and still has China to go (5/12).  Marvel’s doing just fine; they’re just not used to seeing a sequel fail to top its predecessor.  Then again, Avengers did set the bar pretty dang high.

This Weekend’s Actual Box Office Top 10 Totals (5/1-5/3)

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Domestic Debut)

  • Production Budget=$250m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$191.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$168m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$191.2m/$439m/$630.2m

In only 12 days, Age of Ultron has bested the worldwide hauls of Captain America ($371 million), Thor ($449m), Iron Man ($583m) and Iron Man 2 ($622m). In another 12 days, it’ll have passed Thor: The Dark World ($644.8m), The Winter Soldier ($714.8m) and Guardians of the Galaxy ($774.2m).

2. Furious 7

  • Production Budget=$190m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$6.4m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$52.8m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$331m/$1.09b/$1.42b

To re-iterate, Furious 7 is now the 4th highest-grossing film of all time.

3. Age of Adaline

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$6.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$1.5m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$23.3m/$4.5m/$27.8m

4. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$5.8m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$4.3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$51.5m/$24.2m/$75.7m

5. Home

  • Production Budget=$135m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.4m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$17m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$158.3m/$170m/$328.3m

6. Cinderella

  • Production Budget=$95m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.7m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$7m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$194m/$300.6m/$494.6m

And the award for best Avengers counter-programming apparently goes to Cinderella, which had fallen to #12 in the box office top 20 last weekend and jumped all the way up to #6 this weekend.

7. Ex Machina

  • Production Budget=$1m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.28m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=?
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$10.9m/$7.8m/$18.7m

8. Unfriended

  • Production Budget=$1m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.21m
  • Weekend Gross (International)= $3.6m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$28.7m/$3.8m/$32.5m

9. The Longest Ride

  • Production Budget=$34m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.7m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$3.5m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$33.2m/$12.1m/$45.3m

Word-of-mouth has helped this stick around after a poor opening weekend, pushing its domestic and worldwide gross just above the current low water mark for all Nicholas Spark movies, last year’s Best of Me ($26m domestic/$35.9m worldwide). However, is it really good news that Longest Ride is merely the second worst Sparks movie instead of the absolute worst, in terms of box office?

10. Woman in Gold

  • Production Budget=$2m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.6m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=?
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$24.5m/$5.1m/$29.6m

What Left the Top 10?: Get Hard (Current total: $101m worldwide/$40m budget)

What’s Up Next?: Wide (Sofia Vergara/Reese Witherspoon buddy comedy Hot Pursuit, Jack Black/James Marsden buddy comedy The D Train), Limited (Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie drama Maggie)

Sources: BoxOfficeMojo, THR, Vulture

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9 comments

  1. Yeah, or maybe some people were simply watching the cam recording from Europe which is surely floating around somewhere…..

    Whatever the reason, the fuss is a little bit amusing. AoU has been out for barely two weeks and has already cracked the top 100 of the highest grossing movies of all times. And that despite the fact that they have a little bit of trouble in Germany (a lot of the independent theatres refused to show it out of protest against the high fees Disney demands) and it hasn’t even started in China yet. It set the records in multiple countries. We don’t even know yet if it will outperform The Avengers or not. The movies with the strongest openings are not necessarily the ones which make the most money in the end. Time will tell.

    1. About the international performance, from THR:

      Overseas, Ultron posted the biggest opening of all time in several markets this weekend, including Mexico ($25.5 million). Ditto last weekend in Brazil, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Overall, Korea leads with $55.4 million, followed by the U.K. ($48.1 million), Brazil ($29.5 million), Russia ($27.2 million), Australia ($23 million), France ($23 million), Germany ($19.7 million), Italy ($15.2 million), Taiwan ($14.3 million), India ($14 million) and Hong Kong (13.3 million), among other territories.

      About the piracy:

      It’s certainly a possibility, although I have not actually seen any headlines about Age of Ultron becoming a heavily pirated product the way you always do with Game of Thrones (not that I’ve actively looked). Then again, Daredevil became the 2nd most pirated TV show after its release. It’s Marvel. Age of Ultron is Marvel. Ergo…

      About focusing too much on the opening:

      It is amusing. It’s a conversation we have because box office is focused on opening weekends, and Age of Ultron made a ginormous amount of money that was just a little short of the first Avengers. The more substantive part is whether or not Ultron will have legs going forward. After all, the first Avengers ended up with an insane-sounding $623m domestic. Based on the general tone of the conversation about Ultron, I struggle to see it going anywhere near that, especially when only 3 movies have even cracked $400 million since 2012 – Frozen ($400m), Iron Man 3 ($409m) and Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($424m), all of which seemed to be better received than Ultron. One projection I saw had Ultron ending up with $523m domestic. We’ll see how that shakes out. For as good as Furious 7 is doing, it opened with $147m domestic and is now at $331m and finally slowing down. The bigger story is what it’s doing overseas. That same was true for Transformers: Age of Extinction last year, and the same may end up being true for Ultron.

      1. There is a lot of hype-Backlash going on. That won’t keep the people who genuinely loved the movie (and there are more than enough) to watch it again. And again. Most animation fans consider Frozen one of Disney’s more mediocre offers and said so, loudly. Didn’t keep the people from storming the theatres. Everyone said how awful Age of Extension was. Didn’t keep the movie from being briefly in the top ten of the highest grossing movies of all time.

        The thing is there are a lot of people who weren’t fans of the franchise when The Avengers happened – myself included. And a lot of those will go to the theatres this time around.

        Well, we’ll wait and see.

      2. There is an inevitable backlash. It’s just that outside of a bad review in Slate and other things like that I do not remember there being backlash against the first Avengers when it came out. The general public and fanboys seemed equally pleased. Clearly, the fanboys are not nearly as pleased with Age of Ultron, although it seems like a “I loved the first one, only like the second one” situation. So, this time it just feels different to me. As for the others – again, I heard some of the Frozen backlash at the time, but not so much that I thought it altered the film’s word of mouth. Transformers is an outlier because it has always been critic-proof. And Hunger Games: Catching Fire seemed to be a beloved sequel, even with its abrupt ending.

        Outside of CinemaScore, RT and Metacritic and maybe monitoring trending Twitter hastags, you can’t completely quantify word of mouth. Me saying “it feels different this time” doesn’t really mean much beyond my own personal experience. So, a lot of the uncertainty about Ultron’s long-term prospects will be answered when we see how far it falls next weekend, yet even then movies like Frozen have surged after notable second weekend drops.

      3. The situation is different. The expectations are higher and there are a lot of people who wanted this movie to fail because they want to se Marvel stumble for one reason or another. What used to be something a bunch of nerds liked has become something a lot of people perceive as threat.

  2. I hadn’t even thought about the fight, but it makes sense. So many people were talking about it. I know something’s a big deal when I actively turn away from social media because I’m sick of hearing of it.

    I really enjoyed Age of Ultron. I have my problems with it, but I enjoyed it over all. I just thought of a near future blog post lol. Anyway, I think that some things would have been better if they got more time to flesh out. Considering that I’ve heard Whedon’s original cut had about an hour more of material, I’m really hoping we get to see that cut on the bluray because I think it might strengthen certain aspects that needed more time. Weird that I feel a 2 hour 20 minute movie needed more time, but I do. Fingers crossed I get to see it.

    1. I don’t watch boxing ever but while I was talking to a couple of musician friends, even they were talking about it. I thought musicians and nerds were the antithesis of jocks.

      It makes sense that the fight would have an impact of some sort. To achieve insanely high ticket sales, you need to appeal to the entire general public and boxing fans include that.

  3. Well the figures dont lie, Age of Ultron may just make over 400m domestically (even thats not a lock yet).. 9m Wednesday Box Office compared to Dark Knights 18m (2.2k/4.2k cinema average) so its lagging behind Dark Knight even though its ahead atm. domestically (think this movie will be on par with Spiderman’s numbers (2.3k cinema average) if the movie does drop 35% each weekend (not likely to happen, we will see next weekends drop to get a better indication), It will make 1bn+ worldwide no doubt , but will not top Furious 7 (even Furious 7s Worldwide boxoffice total is under threat by this Christmas coming..(hint 🙂 I think Marvel will finally succumb to a bigger threat this Christmas Holday Season)

    1. At this point, what seems most likely is that Age of Ultron will end up with around the same if not higher foreign total of the first Avengers ($895m), but a lower domestic total (10-day totals: Ultron=$312m, Avengers=$373m), joining the $1 billion club but failing to match the first Avengers or Furious 7. However, Disney will emerge the real winner in everything when Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out and also joins the $1 billion club.

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