Less than 12 hours after Avengers: Endgame began preview screenings on Thursday evening, the film is on its way to having the biggest opening weekend of all time. In the U.S. and Canada, Avengers has so far racked up a whopping $60 million in grosses, squeezing past Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which until now had the highest-grossing Thursday opening with a box office net of $57 million. And it marks the highest preview opening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a title previously held by Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed $39 million in Thursday screenings.
Other early openings that Endgame has beaten include: Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($45 million); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5 million); and Black Panther ($25.2 million)
Things aren’t expected to slow down: The 22nd film in the MCU is on track to earn a $1 billion worldwide over its opening weekend, again surpassing the numbers for Infinity War, which grossed $640 million globally when it opened. A big part of the push comes from China, where the film broke records for a Hollywood film opening and pushed Endgame‘s global total so far to $305.5 million.
Theater owners prepared for the mania by offering screenings well into the morning on Thursday. Some AMC theaters offered 1:45 a.m., 2:30 a.m., and 3:30 a.m. showings, and Regal offered showtimes as early as 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. AMC went so far as to set aside 10 million seats and 58,000 showtimes. Midnights screenings at both chains were sold out.
Endgame, which has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, ties together characters’ storylines from the franchise’s earlier films, including Iron Man, Captain America, and Thanos. The film is yet another coup for both Marvel and Disney, which bought the superhero entertainment factory in 2009 for $4.24 billion. The purchase has paid off handsomely and cemented Disney’s reputation as a savvy operator of so-called intellectual property, as well as a powerhouse that owns more of it than any other studio, thanks to its recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
As for Marvel, the company pioneered the idea of introducing cinematic “universes” and has carried out its experiment flawlessly under the direction of Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige ever since the debut of Iron Man back in 2008. Rivals including DC Entertainment have tried to emulate the Marvel formula but have failed to pull it off consistently, despite having success with films such as Wonder Woman and Shazam!.
The real test for Endgame will be in the weeks to come, when it attempts to unseat the highest-grossing film of all time: Avatar ($2.7 billion). Next in line is Titanic ($2.2 billion), followed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2.1 billion) and Avengers: Infinity War: $2 billion).
The film officially opens today in more than 4,662 theaters in the U.S.