Can 'The Avengers' Break the Box Office Record and Become the Highest Grossing Movie of All-Time?

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Marvel Studios/20th Century Fox

As you likely already heard, Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengersshattered a series of box-office records over the weekend by collecting an estimated $200.3 million in domestic ticket sales. That set a new all-time weekend opening number (previously held by the last ‘Harry Potter’ film), and established new marks for single day sales on Saturday and Sunday.

But now that the dust is settling, ‘The Avengers’ is setting its sights on a higher prize: the biggest movie of all-time

Can it get there? Absolutely, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. Currently, Cameron’s sci-fi groundbreaker 'Avatar' sits at $760.5M. Remarkably, Cameron also holds the second-highest grossing film of all time in ‘Titanic’ (which has $658M). But Whedon’s ‘Avengers’ drops onto the all-time list at an impressive No. 119, and can only go up from there.

How far up? That remains to be seen, but here’s why we think ‘The Avengers’ can make it:

1. A lack of legitimate competition: Over the next few weeks, few movies with serious buzz will open in theaters, giving ‘Avengers’ a clear shot at swallowing up the bulk of the box-office sales until either ‘Men In Black 3’ (May 25), ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ (June 1) or ‘Prometheus’ (June 8th) bite into its box. Until then, ‘Avengers’ needs only to contend with ‘Dark Shadows,’ ‘The Dictator’ ‘Battleship’ and ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ … films that cater to specific audiences but likely won’t rise up to steal any of Marvel’s thunder.

2. Overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth: Lost in the mayhem caused by the record-setting haul of ‘The Avengers’ is the news that the film received a stunning A+ grade from CinemaScore, which polls viewers as they exit theaters. Expect those people to tell friends how good the film is, leading to new customers and, of course, repeat viewers.

3. Overwhelmingly positive grades from critics: The film connected with stingy critics, as well, earning a 93% Fresh grade on Rotten Tomatoes and a healthy 70% on MetaCritic.

4. The 3D bump: Several sites have been discussing whether Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has a chance of beating Whedon’s record when it opens on July 20. We're betting against it, and it’s mainly because ‘Rises’ won’t get the legitimate 3D bump. Not to mention the fact that ‘Avengers’ is one of the few films that actually benefits from its 3D, meaning people will go out of their way to pay for the increased visual trickery, thereby enhancing their experience.

5. Right now, ‘The Avengers’ is a pop-culture event: Whedon’s film has tapped into the zeitgeist. The superhero movie appeals to all genders, races and ages. The rally cry at theaters appears to be, “Have you seen ‘The Avengers’ yet?” Nolan’s film likely will match that intensity in July, but for right now, moviegoers are choosing to make their Marvel.

Will it last long enough for ‘Avengers’ to top ‘Avatar’ at the all-time box? It’s going to be close, but we think it can happen. Whedon and company have bucked the odds to deliver a blockbuster that lives up to the promise of its potential. There are so many individual scenes that fans are going to want to go back and revisit time and again, and they’ll want to see them on the big screen in 3D.

I don’t think it’s a matter of “if” Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ tops ‘Avatar.’ I think it’s a question of “when?”

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