'Avengers' sinks 'Battleship' to remain No. 1 at the box office

LOS ANGELES - "The Avengers" continues to muscle out everything else Hollywood throws at it, easily sinking naval rival "Battleship" and other new releases.

With $55.1 million domestically, Disney's superhero sensation remained No. 1 for a third-straight weekend and took in more than the three big newcomers combined. Overseas, "The Avengers" added an additional $56 million.

The film is approaching the $1.2 billion mark worldwide, totaling $457.1 million domestically and $723.3 million internationally.

"'The Avengers' is dominating the marketplace so profoundly that the newcomers are having a tough time breaking in now," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

Universal's "Battleship" opened a distant No. 2 with $25.4 million domestically, well below industry expectations.

But the board-game adaptation starring Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna already has grossed $226.8 million overseas since launching in April, giving it a worldwide total of $252.1 million.

"I would be glad to be No. 2 if we opened to a better number. But given the presence of an absolute juggernaut in the marketplace, there's nothing you can do," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. "Not to have a shot at being No. 1 this weekend is disappointing. But it's a challenge with `Avengers' out there."

Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy "The Dictator," in which he plays a tyrannical third-world leader, debuted in third-place with $17.4 million for the weekend. Since opening Wednesday, the Paramount release has taken in $24.5 million.

"The Dictator" opened with $30.3 million in 29 overseas markets, giving it a worldwide haul of $54.8 million.

Paramount executives said they were happy with that start, but even a movie aiming for laughs had some trouble making in-roads against "The Avengers."

"This is a full-out comedy, very different than `Avengers.' But when you've got a movie that big, it just absolutely sucks up the marketplace," said Anthony Marcoly, head of international distribution for Paramount. "But it's also good for the entire business. Hopefully, those that see `Avengers' will go, `Hey, I want to see another movie,' and hopefully, they'll think of our movie as a next choice."

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's vampire romp "Dark Shadows," which opened in second-place a week earlier, slipped to No. 4 with $12.8 million. The Warner Bros. release lifted its domestic total to $50.9 million, a weak result compared to the previous Depp-Burton blockbusters "Alice in Wonderland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Lionsgate's pregnancy comedy "What to Expect When You're Expecting," featuring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez, premiered at No. 5 with $10.5 million.

"The Avengers" and the newcomers were unable to maintain Hollywood's sizzling start to the summer season. Overall domestic revenues totaled $144 million, down 14 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" opened with $90.2 million, according to Hollywood.com.

At $1.18 billion worldwide, "The Avengers" climbed to the No. 4 spot on the all-time charts, trailing only "Avatar" ($2.8 billion), "Titanic" ($2.2 billion) and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" ($1.3 billion).

Domestically, "The Avengers" at $457.1 million is No. 6 all-time but will quickly pass "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" ($474.5 million) and the original "Star Wars" ($460.9 million) to take the No. 4 spot.

"Avatar" is No. 1 domestically at $760.5 million, followed by "Titanic" at $658.5 million and "The Dark Knight" at $533.3 million.

Factoring in today's higher admission prices, many older movies sold more tickets than "The Avengers," which also has a price advantage because of the extra few dollars it costs to see the 3-D version.

But the Marvel Comics superhero ensemble has proved an overwhelming lure, drawing in all audience segments and packing in some fans who are seeing it over and over.

"It's a contagious thing that gets not just them back, but their friends back to see it again," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. "I'm always happy to see a friendly competition among friends to see who can see the movie the most times."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Avengers," $55.1 million ($56 million international).
2. "Battleship," $25.4 million ($6.5 million international).
3. "The Dictator," $17.4 million ($30.3 million international).
4. "Dark Shadows," $12.8 million.
5. "What to Expect When You're Expecting," $10.5 million.
6. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,"

$3.3 million.
7. "The Hunger Games," $3 million.
8. "Think Like a Man," $2.7 million.
9. "The Lucky One," $1.8 million.
10. "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," $1.5 million.
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