"Thor: The Dark World" will easily soar to No. 1 at the box office this weekend — but will it thunder past the $100-million milestone?
According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, the 3-D superhero sequel is poised to debut with around $95 million. But when a movie is generating so much early interest, it's difficult for tracking services to gauge just how big a film may get — meaning $100 million in opening-weekend ticket sales isn't out of the realm of possibility.
In any event, the movie, which stars Chris Hemsworth, will launch with far more than the original "Thor" in 2011. The first film in the franchise started with $65.7 million and went on to collect $181 million domestically — about 40% of its ultimate $449.3 million global tally.
The "Thor" sequel — which has received slightly less enthusiastic reviews than the original — sees the god of thunder form an uneasy alliance with his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddelston) to protect the universe from an evil Dark Elf.
Since the first film's release two years ago, Thor's popularity has grown, thanks in part to the superhero's role in "The Avengers." That movie, which joined Marvel favorites like Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, was the top-grossing film of 2012 with $1.5 billion in sales worldwide.
The Australian Hemsworth, 30, has also become more of a household name in the years since "Thor" hit theaters. He proved he was a box office draw last year with the successful release of "Snow White and the Huntsman," though his well-reviewed racing drama "Rush" failed to resonate strongly with U.S. moviegoers this fall.
American film fans' interest in superhero flicks, however, remains stronger than ever. The only two films to debut with more than $100 million at the box office this year were both comic book adaptations: "Iron Man 3" and "Man of Steel." "The Dark World" has a shot at scoring the third-best opening of the year, a record held by "Fast & Furious 6" with $97.4 million.
"The Dark World," being distributed by Walt Disney Studios, was financed by Marvel Entertainment for $170 million, according to a source close to the production. While that's a big budget, the movie is already on pace to become a global hit: In less than a week, it has grossed more than $130 million abroad. The movie is performing best in the United Kingdom, though it is expected to do strong business when it debuts in China this weekend.
Back in the States, no other film is daring to go up against the almighty "Thor." The art house hit "12 Years a Slave" will expand to theaters nationwide, as will the time travel romance "About Time," which tanked in limited release last weekend.
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