LOS ANGELES TIMES – Avengers: Age of Ultron” proved its box-office might with an estimated $187.7-million launch in the U.S. and Canada–the second-best domestic opening weekend ever–but may have fallen short of No. 1 because of a boxing match.

Going into the weekend, the Disney Studios/Marvel film, which cost $250 million to make, had been tracking to debut between $190 million and $230 million, giving it decent odds at breaking the $207.4-million record set by “The Avengers” in 2012.

The studio, however, adjusted its expectations on Saturday evening given several major competing events, including the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao “fight of the century” in Las Vegas that kept some potential moviegoers in front of TV sets instead.

“Between the boxing match, NHL and NBA playoffs, the Kentucky Derby … looks like folks were distracted,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution. “But the second-biggest opening in history of movie business is something to be proud of and also just the beginning of what we expect to be a spectacular run.”

“Age of Ultron” is the biggest debut for a sequel, coming in ahead of the $174.1-million opening weekend for “Iron Man 3” in May 2013. If “Age of Ultron” can get fans who missed opening weekend to turn out at theaters in Week 2, the film has a shot of duplicating the success of the first “Avengers” installment, which went on to make $1.5 billion worldwide.

Directed by Joss Whedon, “Age of Ultron” follows superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as they battle against technological villain Ultron (James Spader). Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson also star in the film as twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

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I’ve updated the gallery with some new stills of Scarlett from Avengers: Age of Ultron. For those of you that have been lucky enough to see the film, what did you think? Be sure to let us know!

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VARIETY – “Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuted to a massive $201.2 million across 44 territories this weekend.

Disney and Marvel’s super team adventure was the highest-grossing film in everywhere it opened, and has now rolled out in 55% of the international marketplace, including such major locales as France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Korea and Australia.

Going into the weekend, Disney was projecting a foreign debut of between $160 million to $175 million.

“The bar was high, but this is a sign of unbelievable momentum in the marketplace,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief. “It all goes back to the strength of the brand and the incredible work the Marvel team does in telling stories in such a consistent way and creating these worlds.”

The hotly anticipated superhero sequel opens next week in the U.S., where it is expected to earn north of $200 million and could top the first “Avengers” film’s record-breaking $207.4 million bow. Bringing Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and other costumed heroes together isn’t cheap, and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” carries a $250 million pricetag.

The success of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a testament to the strength of the global market, which now accounts for 70% or more of a major film’s box office gross. Two decades ago, foreign ticket sales usually comprised less than half of a movie’s revenues.

“We are living in rarefied air with ‘Avengers’ to be even talking about these kind of numbers,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “A weekend like this is why a lot of people think it could be even bigger than the first one.”

What’s particularly impressive is that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” put up such big numbers despite currency fluctuations. The strength of the dollar and economic troubles in Europe and Russia have dramatically altered the exchange rate picture in the three years since the first “Avengers.” The euro has fallen roughly 20% in the ensuing time, while the ruble has plunged 46%. Yet the second film is still exceeding the first installment by 44% in today’s dollars.

Enthusiasm for the film gave Imax the largest international opening in its history, not counting China, with $10.4 million of “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” gross coming from the widescreen locations. In a sign of the Imax’s popularity when it comes to comic book titles, its newly opened Denmark theater, its first venue in Scandinavia, did a staggering $172,000 on one screen.

“This picture is right in our wheelhouse,” said Greg Foster, Imax Entertainment CEO. “It’s a fanboy title, and those are the pillar titles that drive what we do.”

He likened Imax’s relationship to films in the Marvel universe to the one it enjoyed with the “Harry Potter” series.

“It’s building a similar relationship with audiences,” said Foster. “That became a tradition to let’s go see Harry Potter in Imax.”

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THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron earned another $35.3 million Thursday at the international box office for an early two-day total of $44.8 million from 26 markets, including scoring the biggest opening-day for moviegoing ever in South Korea.

The superhero extravaganza, which officially kicks off the summer box office, is opening in numerous international markets a week ahead of its May 1 North American debut and could gross $160 million-$175 million for the weekend.

In comparison, the North American box office will be relatively sleepy as two smaller films open, The Age of Adaline, a romantic fantasy starring Blake Lively, and faith-based movie Little Boy.

From Lakeshore and distributed by Lionsgate, Adaline grossed $575,000 from Thursday night previews and could hit $15 million for the weekend. That won’t be enough, however, to unseat ruling champ Furious 7, which will enjoy hits last weekend atop the domestic chart before the invasion of Age of Ultron.

Age of Ultron will be playing in 55 percent of the foreign marketplace this weekend. As expected, it is coming in No. 1 everywhere and pacing ahead of The Avengers in numerous countries. The U.K. led Thursday with $5.4 million, 40 percent ahead of the first film, while Age of Ultron took in $4.9 million in South Korea, where opening-day admissions hit an all-time high (to boot, the tentpole commanded 96 percent of the market).

In Russia, Age of Ultron debuted to $3.7 million, followed by Brazil with $3.4 million, the top opening-day gross of a Disney/Marvel title. Other Thursday opening results include $3.4 million in Australia and $1.8 million in Germany.

Domestically, Age of Ultron could surpass the $207.4 million debut of The Avengers in 2012 to mark the top three-day opening of all time.

Avengers went on to earn $1.5 billion globally, including $895.2 million overseas.

Age of Ultron returns Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. The ensemble cast also includes Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle and Paul Bettany. This time, the superheroes and their allies must work together to stop Ultron (James Spader), who intends to destroy the world.

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Many thanks to Ann for the heads up on this video!

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Onscreen, Robert Downey, Jr. and others make up an elite superhero team, but off-screen they are just like family.

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