The Marvel machine keeps growing. Thor: The Dark World earned $86.1 million at the U.S. box office this past weekend, an improvement of more than 30 percent on the debut of the first Thor movie. The jump might have something to do with the success of the Marvel’s 2012 movie, The Avengers, which raised the profile of Thor and his evil brother Loki.
Nearly every Avengers-themed sequel has made more money than its predecessor: The first Iron Man earned a respectable $96 million on opening weekend in 2008, Iron Man 2 jumped to $128 million in 2010, and this year’s Iron Man 3 brought in a whopping $174 million. The third installment has earned $1.2 billion worldwide so far—95 percent more than Iron Man 2.
Thor’s numbers are much smaller—and always have been—but Thor: The Dark World’s stellar first weekend proves that audiences’ appetite for all things Marvel has yet to be satiated. That’s good news for Walt Disney Studios (DIS), which bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009 and has been making good use of its comic-book catalog of more than 5,000 characters, including Spider-Man and the X-Men, ever since. The Marvel-ing of American entertainment has become nearly ubiquitous, with the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, and the four TV series that Marvel has promised to produce for Netflix starting in 2015. And of course dozens of actual comic books are released every month.
The granddaddy of all Marvel franchises is, of course, The Avengers, which made $207.4 million in the U.S. on its opening weekend last year and has since gone on to rake in $1.5 billion worldwide. A second Avengers movie is scheduled for 2015, and given the rate of improvement enjoyed by the sequels of its superhero members, the box office numbers could be too high to count.