Unstoppable Avengers Sinks Battleship, Ousts The Dictator

The moms-in-waiting of What to Expect... also get flattened as the Marvel superhit takes less than a month to rise to No. 4 on the all-time worldwide blockbusters list

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Zade Rosenthal / MVLFFLLC / Marvel

Scarlett Johansson in a scene from The Avengers

Somebody Tweet Loki. At least the Nordic nerd-god was able to make trouble for a half-dozen superheroes, and practically wreck Planet Earth, over the two hours-plus of The Avengers. But none of the films that have opened since the Marvel maxi-movie touched down in America on May 4 have mounted even the puniest challenge to this year’s blockbuster supreme. According to preliminary studio estimates, the three latest rivals — Battleship, The Dictator and What to Expect When You’re Expecting — took in a total of $53.2 million at the North American box office, or less than the $55.1 million commandeered by The Avengers in its third week. These three don’t qualify as Marvel-worthy supervillains; they’re more like collateral damage.

The Avengers’ threepeat made it the first movie to win three May weekends since Lethal Weapon 3 in 1992. But that plaque is hardly worth putting in the Marvel trophy case. Since April 25, when it opened in nine foreign countries, The Avengers has earned $1.18 billion worldwide and, in less than a month, vaulted to fourth place on the all-time moneymaker list, behind Avatar, Titanic and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Within the week it should pass the Potter finale and seize third place all-time. The fifth picture released by Disney to reach the global $1-billion mark (after Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland and two Pirates of the Caribbean episodes), The Avengers is now the studio’s first among equals in global gross.

(READ: Corliss’s review of The Avengers)

In the U.S. and Canada, where it’s earned $457.1 million, The Avengers is sixth on the all-time list — for now. Two Star Wars episodes, the 1977 original and the 1999 The Phantom Menace, should fall to the Marvel machine by Tuesday night. The movie could also exceed The Dark Knight’s total gross of $533.3 million by Memorial Day. Then, its ambition unslaked, the picture can aim for $2 billion. That’s a lot of money, unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, or the dude at JPMorgan Chase who lost that much on a risky bet.

Battleship, Universal’s fantasy adventure about the U.S. Navy fleet repelling an alien invasion, covered most of its bets by opening in foreign climes a month before it docked in the States. There it has earned a sturdy $226.8 million; here it cruised to a $25.3 million opening, far below industry expectations. The ticket buyers were mostly older men — those not watching the NBA or NHL playoffs or last night’s Champions League soccer final (which attracted 300 million viewers around the world) — and the rating that early attendees gave to the CinemaScore polling company was a modest B.

(READ: Steven James Snyder’s review of Battleship)

The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen’s impersonation of a Qaddafi- or Saddam-style Arab tyrant, tortured $17.4 million out of weekend moviegoers, and $24.5 million since it opened Wednesday. Even the five-day number is below the $30-million opening-weekend revenue for the Method comic’s last jape, the 2009 Brüno; and there’s no way the new Baron Cohen farce will approach the $261.6 million worldwide take of his 2006 Borat. That movie cost a thrifty $18 million to produce, this one a fairly lavish $65 million. Although The Dictator is considerably cuddlier than Brüno, it received the same censorious grade from CinemaScore: a C, which in that survey’s bell-curve rating scheme is like an F-minus.(READ: Corliss’s TIME.com review of The Dictator)
What to Expect When You’re Expecting ranked higher among CinemaScore pollees — a B-minus — but every other indication was abysmal. This ensemble romantic comedy, with Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick and Brooklyn Decker as moms-in-waiting, enticed a drab $10.5 million from expectant moviegoers. Like last month’s surprise hit Think Like a Man, the movie is based on a self-help book; and since the only characters in WTEWYE are fetuses, the writers had to start from scratch. Scratch is what they wound up with, and not much of it. Indeed, the three new films performed so poorly that, even with The Avengers steamrollering along, the weekend was down 14% from the same frame last year.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review on What to Expect When You’re Expecting

In the suburb of Mainstream City called Indieville, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel continued its happy run, in Fox Searchlight’s month-long strategy to expand the film from 27 theaters to more than a thousand next weekend. The senior-pleasing entry about Brit retirees in India earned $75 million abroad before opening here May 4, and in its third Stateside weekend it amassed $3.25 million at just 178 venues. That gave Marigold the weekend’s best per-screen average ($18,258) — perhaps the only “best” that The Avengers has not copped this month.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Next weekend may provide The Avengers with some real competition: Men in Black 3, with longtime box-office dynamo Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reviving the scifi-comedy franchise whose first two installments earned more than $1 billion in 1997 and 2002. Remember when a billion dollars seemed like real movie money?

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. The Avengers, $55.1 million: $457.1 million, third week

2. Battleship, $25.3 million, first weekend

3. The Dictator, $17.4 million; $24.5 million, first five days

4. Dark Shadows, $12.8 million; $50.9 million, second week

5. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, $10.5 million, first weekend

6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, $3.25 million; $8.3 million, third week

7. The Hunger Games, $3 million; $391.6 million, ninth week

8. Think Like a Man, $2.7 million; $85.9 million, fifth week

9. The Lucky One, $1.8 million; $56.9 million, fifth week

10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits, $1.45 million; $23.3 million, fourth week