By Paula Bernstein
May 6, 2019

Avengers: Endgame has set the summer box office aflame—and the summer movie season hasn’t even officially begun. But with Memorial Day Weekend just around the corner, Avengers: Endgame will soon face some stiff competition from the latest installments of a number of beloved movie franchises.

Since its worldwide release on April 24, Avengers: Endgame has obliterated a number of box office records, becoming the second highest-grossing film of all time in only its second week of release. Raking in $2.188 billion globally, the final installment of the Avengers saga is on track to eclipse 2009’s Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time ($2.8 billion).

The film, which sees the Avengers teaming up to defeat Thanos, had the biggest global opening in history with an estimated $1.2 billion, including a record-opening $357 million in North America alone. The star-studded blockbuster reunites Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and Josh Brolin as Thanos.

After a slow start to the year at the box office, the superhero flick has kickstarted the summer movie season.

“It used to be that Memorial Day was considered the first weekend of summer. It’s now the last weekend of April,” says Anthony Dalessandro, editorial director/box office editor at Deadline. “As far as Hollywood is concerned, summer has started.”

And moviegoers are flocking to Avengers: Endgame. It’s already bested its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, which was released the same time last year, in several key measures.

Raking in $145.8 million in its second box office weekend, Avengers: Endgame surpassed Avengers: Infinity War’s second weekend gross of $114.8.

It’s now one of only five films to ever cross the $2 billion mark, following in the footsteps of Avatar, Titanic, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Infinity War.

But that doesn’t guarantee it will rule the box office roost throughout the competitive summer months—especially given the star wattage and high-profile sequels Hollywood plans to deliver to audiences.

Unlike previous box office blockbusters such as Avatar, Titanic, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which were released in December, Endgame hit theaters in late spring, which means it will have to go head-to-head against summer’s heavy hitters.

“The top-grossing movies worldwide of all time all came out in December, so they had a wide-open runway, from January into February. Avatar was the only movie out for a long time,” says Variety box office reporter Rebecca Rubin.

It took Avatar 47 days to surpass $2 billion worldwide, whereas Endgame surpassed that threshold in just 11 days. Of course, ticket prices were lower in 2009 when Avatar was released.

Last summer, moviegoers trekked to their local multiplexes to see Avengers: Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ocean’s 8, and The Meg. All signs point to this summer as being as much—if not more—of a box office bonanza.

“Summer is the most competitive movie season,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “You can have a massive hit at any time of the year, but the summer season still remains the sweet spot for going to the movies. It’s a 52-weekend-a-year business, but the 18 weeks of summer accounts for around 40% of the total year’s box office.”

At the moment, Dergarabedian says, Endgame is “totally dominating the marketplace. But there are big movies on the way that are going to take their turn on the top of the charts. Audiences this summer will be migrating from one big box office franchise to another. There are a host of movies that are poised to do big business.”

These Are the Movies Coming Out in Summer 2019

To start, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, which has a huge built-in audience, hits theaters next weekend.

Avengers: Endgame will face some competition within its core demographic next weekend with the release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, but even if it were to drop from the weekend’s top spot it will continue to enjoy a strong run over the early summer months,” says Brad Brevet, editor of Box Office Mojo.

Another Disney title, the live-action Aladdin, will hit theaters Memorial Day Weekend.

Other anticipated summer tent poles include John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, (May 17), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31), The Secret Life of Pets 2 (June 7), Toy Story 4 (June 21), Men in Black: International (June 14), Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5), The Lion King (July 19), Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Aug. 2). That doesn’t even account for other likely audience hits, such as Quentin Tarantino’s much buzzed about star-studded Once Upon a Time in America, starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, and Al Pacino, among others, and Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson.

And then there are the possible sleeper hits or indie breakouts. “There are all kinds of movies that can do really well in the summer,” says Dergarabedian. “Some of the best, most profitable and most beloved films of any given summer can often come from the smaller budget levels, the films that aren’t necessarily on audience’s radars.”

Last summer, Crazy Rich Asians was a surprise runaway hit, as was the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? which earned $22.5 million domestically.

This summer, audiences could click with documentaries such as festival favorite The Biggest Little Farm (May 10), This One’s for the Ladies (June 7), and Maiden (June 28).

Some other potential non-franchise hits include the Sundance darling The Last Black Man in San Francisco (June 7), Danny Boyle’s Yesterday (June 28), and The Farewell, featuring Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina (July 12).

A Brief History of the Summer Box Office

Summer wasn’t always the season for studios to present their tent-pole titles. The notion of a blockbuster didn’t exist until June 1975. That’s when Universal used a massive television marketing campaign to promote Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and released the movie nationwide simultaneously, something that hadn’t been done before.

Up until the runaway success of Jaws, summer was when Hollywood dumped its less impressive titles. The notion of a summer blockbuster wasn’t cemented until 1977 when Star Wars hit theaters and eclipsed Jaws’ box office records. In the more than 40 years since, some of our biggest cultural touchstones and highest grossing movies have been summer releases, including Grease, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Ghostbusters, Jurassic Park, Forest Gump, Independence Day, Shrek, and Wonder Woman.

Given this summer’s blockbuster lineup, Endgame could end up being only one of several studio films, which break the $1 billion mark.

End Game will probably wind up being the biggest movie overall of the summer in terms of total final gross,” says Dergarabedian. “It’s going to be the film that kicked off what could end up being a record-breaking summer.”

But will it dominate the summer?

“In a word, no,” says Dergarabedian. “All these new movies will take their place at the top of the chart as audiences migrate from one big blockbuster to the next.”

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