If prerelease tracking is any indication, Joss Whedon's The Avengers could score one of the biggest domestic openings of all time for a superhero pic, if not one of the biggest period.
The first batch of prerelease tracking for the film shows the ensemble extravaganza, which opens May 4 in North America, pacing ahead of Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight in most key categories.
A bold mash-up, Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Tim Hiddleston as Loki.
In July 2008, The Dark Knight bowed to $158.4 million to become the top opener of all time at the domestic box office (it had the advantage of opening in the heart of summer). The pic held the record until fellow Warner Bros. title Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 debuted to nearly $170 million in July 2011.
Avengers also is tracking better than Lionsgate's blockbuster The Hunger Games, which posted a record March bow of $152.5 million to score the third-best opening of all time behind Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Dark Knight, respectively.
Avengers is appearing to be a sizable victory for Disney in the wake of box-office misfire John Carter earlier this year. The superhero pic is the first Marvel title to be distributed and marketed by the studio since it bought Marvel.
Among the movies solely produced by Marvel Studios, Iron Man 2 boasts the biggest domestic opening ($128.1 million).
According to first tracking, unaided awareness in Avengers is 13 percent, compared with 10 percent for Dark Knight and 11 percent for Hunger Games; first choice is 23 percent, tying with Hunger Games and higher than the 19 percent for Dark Knight.
Total awareness is 85 percent, compared with 76 percent for Dark Knight and 74 percent for Hunger Games; definite interest is 61 percent, versus 62 percent for Dark Knight and 54 percent for Hunger Games.
The interest among males in Avengers is surging, though females are likewise expressing more interest than they did in Dark Knight.
Avengers begins rolling out overseas April 27, a week ahead of its domestic launch.
- Scarlett Johansson