The 5 Greatest Box Office Openings of All Time

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Hollywood is on its way to a record year at the box office after summer 2013 set the record for highest-grossing summer — and it wasn’t even close, according to Box Office Mojo. The overall domestic box office earnings this summer came in at $4.76 billion, up 11 percent from the previous summer and 8 percent from the previous record year, 2011′s $4.4 billion.

The numbers seem to indicate that Hollywood’s fears of declining revenue are unfounded. The year-to-date box office stands at $8.184 billion, putting this year’s overall domestic gross slightly ahead of last year’s record-setting take of $10.8 billion, with some heavy-hitters such as Warner Bros.’s (NYSE:TWX) Gravity and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Lions Gate Entertainment’s (NYSE:LFG) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still to come.

However, one record Hollywood will have to live without this year — at least, for now — is the crown for biggest weekend at the domestic box office. Industry analysts predict that Lions Gate’s Catching Fire may approach upwards of $160 million, but as you’ll see, that figure isn’t good enough to take down most of the titans on this list.

Here’s a list of the five largest weekend openings at the box office, which is dominated by two studios: Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) and Warner Bros.

The Joker

5. The Dark Knight ($158 million)

Warner Bros.’s second installment of the Dark Knight trilogy ran circles around the the previous release in the series, Batman Begins, en route to $158 million in its opening weekend. In comparison, Batman Begins brought in a respectable $48 million for the three-day weekend beginning June 17, 2005, and ultimately earned $205 million domestically. To put that in perspective, The Dark Knight was approaching the total domestic gross of Batman Begins after three days in theaters.

Warner Bros.’s The Dark Knight ultimately made $533 million at domestic box offices and $469 million overseas for a whopping worldwide total of $1 billion. Additionally, the film has remained one of Warner Bros.’s best-performing DVD titles, bringing in $262 million in DVD sales to date.

Dark Knight Rises

4. The Dark Knight Rises ($160 million)

Warner Bros.’s third installment of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, just barely edged out The Dark Knight for No. 4 on the all-time list, with a 3-day opening weekend take of $160 million.

The Dark Knight Rises did not perform as well domestically as The Dark Knight, making $448 million versus the previous film’s $533 million take, but it went on to make up the distance via a stronger performance overseas, where The Dark Knight Rises made $631 million. Worldwide, The Dark Knight Rises ticket sales sit at $1.07 billion and the film has so far made almost $65 million in domestic DVD sales.

(Source Warner Bros.)

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II ($169 million)

The final installment of the Harry Potter series, Warner Bros.’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, takes the third spot on the list with a three-day opening of $169 million. But what’s more interesting is that none of the other Harry Potter films made it into the top 10 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I comes in closest, with $125 million good for the 13th spot.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II’s domestic take wasn’t nearly as potent as some of the other films on this list, coming in at $381 million, but the film’s international box office more than made up the difference at the end of the day, with a take of $947 million. The film would ultimately finish with worldwide box office sales of $1.32 billion and an additional $89 million in domestic DVD sales.

(Source Marvel)

2. Iron Man 3 ($174 million)

Disney’s Iron Man 3 is the only 2013 film to show up on this list, having made $174 million in its opening weekend. Released early in the summer, the movie is currently the highest-grossing film of the year and only has a remote chance of being unseated by Warner Bros.’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug or Lions Gate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Iron Man 3 is Disney’s second-best performing Marvel-based film to date, with a domestic box office take of $408 million and a strong overseas take of $803 million. Overall, Iron Man 3 has made $1.21 billion worldwide, and while home media sales have not yet been reported, the film is set to be one of the top-selling DVDs of the winter season.

The Avengers

1. Marvel’s The Avengers ($207 million)

As if this one was ever in doubt. Disney’s The Avengers opened in 2012 to a weekend box office take of $207 million, and it will likely remain one of the most astounding box office achievements for some time. On a list of films with huge openings, The Avengers holds a $30 million cushion for the No. 1 spot on this list. Impressive, to say the least.

The Avengers went on to make $623 million domestically and $891 million overseas for a worldwide box office yield of $1.5 billion. Additionally, DVD sales for the film have been strong, grossing an additional $94 million.

Looking Forward

So what could be the film to unseat The Avengers from the No. 1 spot on the list? Lions Gate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should give some of these films a scare, but it isn’t likely to dominate the way The Avengers or Iron Man 3 did, according to early projections. And Warner Bros.’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t have nearly the kind of domestic box office power as the films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy did.

It’s difficult to predict, but if a film is going to crack this list, it’ll be one of the blockbusters set to be released in 2015; check out this list of blockbuster franchises set to hit the screen in 2015. There are three major contenders to break the record in 2015 and, unsurprisingly, they all come from either Disney or Warner Bros.

Of the two studios, Disney has the best chance of breaking its own record, as it is set to release both the sequel to The AvengersThe Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the wildly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII. Given the layoffs from past iterations of a Star Wars film, along with the new, award-winning creative team behind Episode VII, the film seems primed to smash records when it’s released. The Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t exactly a small fry either.

Warner Bros. could also be chasing records when its Man of Steel sequel is released in 2015. The film brings together Superman and Batman on the big screen for the first time ever. It’s a little unclear as to how the film will perform given director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale’s exit, but the lack of their talent and star power might be replaced with the sheer excitement in seeing Batman and Superman in the same film after seemingly numerous attempts to bring them together. While fans were disappointed with the studio’s decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman, expect that sentiment lessen as the film’s release comes closer and buzz sets in.

Check out the the rest of the list of biggest weekends over at The Numbers.

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