Owing to their worldwide influence, Hollywood films have had the biggest box office openings in recent years. With increasing consumers of primarily action-oriented, franchise-led films, the movie business has been raking in dollars from theatres around the world.
Movies rely on strong openings to earn profits, and some of the highest-grossing movies of all time made a good part of their lifetime gross during the opening weekend of the film. However, these earnings usually start falling after the first weekend. By the third weekend, the theatrical earnings might even drop completely. It is also noteworthy that, barring exceptions such as John Wick, both the earnings and critical appreciation for successive films in a franchise tend to be lesser than their predecessor.
How are box office openings calculated?
Box office openings are generally divided into domestic and international earnings. The term ‘domestic’ refers to the US and Canada box office receipts. All other markets are clubbed under the term ‘international.’ The combined earning of the two is called global or worldwide box office collection.
Usually, ‘opening’ refers to opening weekend collections. A weekend in the US and Canada is usually three days — from Friday through Sunday. It is this three-day collection that is known as opening revenue.
To calculate the worldwide opening gross in most cases, trade analysts only record data that shows the three-day collection from the same weekend in other markets. But it is noteworthy that movies may open in different markets on different dates. This complicates the calculation of the box office opening collection.
Yet, worldwide revenue figures normally reflect earnings from international markets as well as the domestic market where a movie may have opened at the same time. This means the opening collection of some movies, as announced by analysts, may not include the revenue from some countries where the film may not have been released concurrently with the domestic US/Canada market.
There are also instances where a movie’s opening collection may include a five-day period, or more, ending on a Sunday. This depends on the film’s opening day. An example is the animated film, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which opened on 5 April 2023 — a Wednesday.
According to mainstream American media reports, the film has earned a worldwide opening gross of USD 377 million. This includes its record-smashing domestic opening of USD 204.6 million.
But as Variety notes, the domestic figure is its five-day total, starting from Wednesday and ending on Sunday. Movies such as Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home earned way more in their three-day opening weekends.
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), the actual three-day opening weekend collection of The Super Mario Bros. Movie would come to USD 146.4 million. Nevertheless, trade analysts have included the five-day domestic collection in determining the overall global box office opening revenue of the film.
Which films get strong box office openings?
For once, all the 16 movies on this list which witnessed the highest-grossing opening weekends are either part of franchises or sequels. None is a standalone film. This indicates audiences prefer flocking to theatres to see fan-favourite characters or storylines. It explains why five of these movies are Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, including the record holder for highest-grossing opening ever.
The other factor is, of course, the number of theatres and markets a film opens in. More markets mean more money, and some large markets, such as China and India, generate a lot of revenue for Hollywood movies.
Additionally, this means films made by well-established major studios that have massive production and marketing budgets are the ones more likely to earn more as opening revenue than smaller ones or independent studios.
Here are the biggest movie openings in the world
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- Avengers: Endgame
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- The Fate of the Furious
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Jurassic World
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
- Captain Marvel
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Avatar: The Way of Water
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Detective Chinatown 3
- The Battle at Lake Changjin II (Water Gate Bridge)
- Furious 7
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Opening collection: USD 1.22 billion
Release date: 26 April 2019
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Brie Larson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Josh Brolin
RT rating: 94 per cent
Synopsis: Following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, the remaining superheroes travel back in time to reset the damage caused by Thanos (Brolin) and restore balance to the universe.
More about the collection: Endgame still holds the overall weekend record for the biggest worldwide opening ever in the history of cinema. Of its total opening gross, it earned USD 350 million in the domestic market — a record for a Hollywood movie. To date, it is the second-highest-grossing movie of all time at the global box office with USD 2.8 billion in earnings.
Image credit: © Marvel Studios/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 640 million
Release date: 27 April 2018
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin
RT rating: 85 per cent
Synopsis: Thanos (Brolin), the Mad Titan, goes on a rampage in his quest to obtain the powerful Infinity Stones. His purpose is to wipe out half of all living beings in the universe. But the mighty Avengers and their allies are in his way, willing to put all on the line to stop him.
More about the collection: Infinity War held the biggest opening weekend record for a film both worldwide and domestically before Endgame broke both records. Of its global total, USD 240 million came from the domestic market.
Image credit: © 2018 – Marvel Studios/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 601 million
Release date: 17 December 2021
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire
RT rating: 93 per cent
Synopsis: After his secret identity is exposed to the world, Peter Parker (Holland) seeks the help of Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) wanting everyone to forget he is Spider-Man. Strange casts a spell, but that goes dangerously wrong. Supervillains and some familiar faces from other universes then interfere with Parker’s world.
More about the collection: No Way Home made its worldwide opening haul without having opened in China, becoming only the second film to do so while earning over USD 600 million. It still holds the record for the best opening worldwide for a pandemic-era film.
Image credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures – © 2021 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. MARVEL and all related character names: © & ™ 2021 MARVEL/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 532.5 million
Release date: 14 April 2017
Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron
RT rating: 67 per cent
Synopsis: Cipher (Theron) is a cyberterrorist who makes Dominic Toretto (Diesel) go against his own family and undertake a mission that could trigger a nuclear war. His family decides to stop him before it is too late and form an alliance with government agents and Dominic’s former foes.
More about the collection: With USD 32.3 million, the film broke the global opening weekend earnings record held by Jurassic World, which had earned USD 326.7 million of its total worldwide gross in foreign markets. Of its foreign earnings, The Fate of the Furious earned the most out in China. At USD 190 million, it was the biggest opening for a Hollywood film at the Chinese box office.
Image credit: Matt Kennedy – © Universal Pictures/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 529 million
Release date: 18 December 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow
RT rating: 93 per cent
Synopsis: Rey (Ridley) is a desert scavenger who joins a former stormtrooper named Finn (Boyega) to find Han Solo (Ford) after Kylo Ren (Driver), the grandson of Darth Vader, attacks her planet.
More about the collection: The first film of the sequel trilogy of the Star Wars universe struggled to break Jurassic World’s worldwide record in the first two days of its release. But it did very well on the third and last day of the release weekend at the North American box office to outperform the dinosaur-centric movie. It is noteworthy that the film managed to do so without having been released in China and other foreign markets. At the time of its release, it set the highest opening weekend record domestically with a gross of USD 247.9 million. The Force Awakens ended up as the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time with a haul of just over USD 2 billion.
Image credit: © 2015 – Lucasfilm/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 524.5 million
Release date: 12 June 2015
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan
RT rating: 71 per cent
Synopsis: Indominus Rex, a large genetically modified hybrid dinosaur which can camouflage itself, goes on a killing spree in a theme park on which once stood Jurassic Park. The park’s manager Claire Dearing (Howard) and Owen Grady (Pratt), a Navy veteran who has trained velociraptors, must find a way to capture Indominus Rex.
More about the collection: Jurassic World set several box office records with its opening haul and is the best-performing of the three films in its trilogy. With USD 208.8 million, it broke the domestic record held for three years by The Avengers. And with USD 315.6 million, it surpassed the four-year-old foreign box office opening record held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Image credit: © 2014 – Universal Pictures/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 481.5 million
Release date: 15 July 2011
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Ralph Fiennes
RT rating: 96 per cent
Synopsis: As the dark forces led by Lord Voldemort (Fiennes) unleash a vicious assault on the young wizards at Hogwarts, Harry (Radcliffe), Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) try to find the remaining Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord.
More about the collection: The film opened at 20,000 overseas screens in 59 foreign territories. The first Harry Potter film was released in 3D, and its record foreign market haul came over a five-day period. Eventually, Deathly Hallows – Part 2 became the highest-grossing Harry Potter film with a gross worldwide total of USD 1.34 billion and is the only film in the franchise to have crossed the billion mark.
Image credit: Jaap Buitendijk – © 2011 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. HARRY POTTER PUBLISHING RIGHTS (C) J.K.R. HARRY POTTER CHARACTERS, NAMES AND RELATED IN/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 456 million
Release date: 8 March 2019
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, Jude Law
RT rating: 79 per cent
Synopsis: A powerful Kree warrior named Vers (Larson) begins realising that there is more to her backstory than she ever knew after she crash-lands on Earth during a battle with the Skrulls.
More about the collection: Of the film’s non-US earnings of USD 302.3 million, around USD 89.3 came from China.
Image credit: IMDb
Opening collection: USD 450 million
Release date: 6 May 2022
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez
RT rating: 74 per cent
Synopsis: Trying to help a teenage girl named America Chavez (Gomez), who is being pursued by a dark power, Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) approaches Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) to find answers.
More about the collection: Events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film Multiverse of Madness are set after the events in No Way Home. Interestingly, the film set the record for the second-best opening worldwide for a pandemic-era film, behind only its predecessor.
Image credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Courtesy of Marvel Studios – © Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved./IMDb
Opening collection: USD 451 million
Release date: 15 December 2017
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro
RT rating: 91 per cent
Synopsis: Rey (Ridley) travels to a distant planet to seek help from a reclusive Luke Skywalker (Hamill) to take down the First Order which is close to destroying the Resistance. Sensing that the Force is strong with her, Luke decides to teach Rey the ways of the Jedi.
More about the collection: The film earned USD 230.8 million outside the US even before its release in China. At home, it set the record for the second-highest opening weekend earnings with USD 220 million.
Image credit: Jonathan Olley – © 2016 – Lucasfilm Ltd./IMDb
Opening collection: USD 441.6 million
Release date: 16 December 2022
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet
RT rating: 76 per cent
Synopsis: When an old threat returns, Jake Sully must take his new family to safety. In doing so, he will have to forge alliances with other Na’vi people and defend Pandora from the invaders.
More about the collection: One of the highest-grossing movies of 2022, The Way of Water performed beyond expectations at the global box office. Outside of the US, the film earned just over USD 307 million. But more than 35 movies have a better earning record at home than this film’s USD 134 million domestic opening gross.
Image credit: IMDb
Opening collection: USD 422 million
Release date: 25 March 2016
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot
RT rating: 29 per cent
Synopsis: Batman (Affleck) believes Superman (Cavill) could be a threat to humanity if he is left unchecked. As he goes after the Man of Steel, he is unaware that Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) is building his own designs that will leave the world broken.
More about the collection: High anticipation for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film helped the otherwise critically panned Dawn of Justice to rake in a high box office opening gross.
Image credit: Clay Enos – © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC and Ratpac Entertainment, LLC/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 398 million
Release date: 12 February 2021 (China)
Director: Chen Sicheng
Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Tony Jaa, Masami Nagasawa, Tadanobu Asano
Synopsis: Qin Feng (Liu) is one of the greatest detectives in Asia. When he is invited to Tokyo to investigate a crime, Qin and his distant uncle Tang Ren (Wang), who always gets into trouble, will have to match wits and defend themselves from several mysterious people.
More about the collection: Detective Chinatown 3 is one of the highest-grossing comedy movies of all time. But its entire opening as well as overall gross comes from China alone, with Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand making paltry contributions to the total. The film holds the record for the best opening in China as well as the best opening for a film in a single market. Both records were previously held by Endgame.
Image credit: IMDb
Opening collection: USD 399 million
Release date: 1 February 2022 (China)
Directors: Chen Kaige, Dante Lam and Tsui Hark
Cast: Wu Jing, Jackson Yee, Duan Yihong, Zhu Yawen
Synopsis: A band of Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) soldiers must fight both terrible cold and American forces as they try to take control of a crucial bridge during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the midst of the Korean War.
More about the collection: Like Detective Chinatown 3, Water Gate Bridge, too, made its entire opening and overall gross at the China box office alone. The opening estimate comes from Forbes, which calculated the figure based on its six-day earnings from Tuesday through Sunday. The film earned USD 105 million on the first day.
Image credit: IMDb
Opening collection: USD 397 million
Release date: 3 April 2015
Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham
RT rating: 81 per cent
Synopsis: Deckard Shaw (Statham) comes after Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his family seeking revenge after his terrorist brother is rendered comatose by them. A government agent, Mr Nobody (Russell), offers to help Toretto if he can rescue a kidnapped computer hacker named Ramsey (Emmanuel) who holds the key to a powerful surveillance programme.
More about the collection: The highest-grossing movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, Furious 7 was emotionally significant for fans as it marks the final film of Paul Walker who died in a car accident in November 2013. Followed by its strong worldwide opening, the film went on to earn more than USD 1.5 billion. In fact, at the time of its release, it set the record for the fastest film to reach the billion-dollar mark, which it did in 17 days.
Image credit: Scott Garfield – © 2015 – Universal Pictures/IMDb
Opening collection: USD 394 million
Release date: 15 July 2009
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon
RT rating: 84 per cent
Synopsis: Harry Potter (Radcliffe) discovers an old book marked “the property of the Half-Blood Prince.” He begins investigating and learns about the dark past of Lord Voldemort at the time when Death Eaters are about to invade Hogwarts.
More about the collection: With USD 236 million from 54 territories, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince broke the record for the foreign opening set by Tobey Maguire-starrer Spider-Man 3 in 2007. But its total worldwide opening indicates a five-day gross.
Image credit: © 2009 – Warner Bros. All rights reserved./IMDb