LOS ANGELES (AP) — The summer movie season opens with a blast Friday as Disney's much-anticipated, $220 million "The Avengers" storms onto more than 4,000 domestic screens with expectations that it could earn between $150 million and $170 million in its first weekend. The record is held by last year's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" at $169.2 million.
Directed by Joss Whedon, "The Avengers" unleashes Marvel Studio's pantheon of superheros to save the world in 3-D and IMAX. The PG-13 film, which has already passed the $280 million mark overseas, stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo.
The remainder of the top five films will be left to skirmish over mere scraps, led by Sony's ensemble hit "Think Like a Man" at just under $10 million in its third weekend out. As the PG-13-rated romp nears $75 million in North America, the $12 million production budget was obviously money well spent on this adaptation of Steve Harvey's best-selling dating book.
Sony's second weekend of "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" will offer a family-friendly, PG-rated alternative this weekend and should wind up with a gross slightly north of $6 million.
Lionsgate's hugely successful "The Hunger Games" will add another $6 million plus to its North American total as it crosses the $380 million mark by the end of the weekend and pushes its worldwide total well beyond the $600 million mark.
Universal's R-rated comedy "The Five Year Engagement" and Warner Bros.' romantic drama "The Lucky One" will fight to grab a spot in the top five with grosses of around $5 million-plus each.
Paul Dergarabedian is president of the Box Office Division of Hollywood.com and provides box office analysis for The Associated Press.