The Avengers doesn't hit theaters stateside until Friday, but, given that it's already yielded a record-breaking $178.4 million in its international release's first weekend, pundits are predicting a similarly colossal U.S. opening for the flick, which unites Marvel superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, and Black Widow for one special-effects-heavy adventure. In the past 12 months, box office records have already fallen to franchise flicks such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, and the summer season is packed with major blockbuster releases, most notably the Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. How will The Avengers' box office haul rank? 

It will be huge: The Avengers will post the highest first-weekend gross ever, says Bob Thompson at Canada. Early estimates predicted a stateside opening in the $150 million range, akin to The Hunger Games' haul, but a palpable frenzy has been surrounding the film (note record-breaking pre-sales), suggesting that a $160 million gross is more likely. Word of mouth is so positive, I wouldn't be surprised if the band of superheroes topples the $169.2 million record set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.
"The Avengers bound to take The Dark Knight down at the box office"

Nope, The Dark Knight Rises will be bigger: This summer's box office showdown between The Avengers and July's The Dark Knight Rises will be as intense as any epic battle in the respective films, says Dusten Carlson at Inquisitr. But expect Batman to rise to the top. The Caped Crusader is far more popular than any Avenger; The Dark Knight was the highest-grossing superhero flick of all time. Iron Man ranks a respectable 5th, but his cohorts Thor (15th), Captain America (17th), and The Incredible Hulk (24th) lack the same wow factor. Plus: The Dark Knight Rises' marketing has only just begun and is shaping up to be formidable.
"Superhero showdown: Can The Avengers top The Dark Knight Rises?"

The winner could determine the genre's fate: We are "witnessing a battle for the future of the genre," says Darren Franich at Entertainment Weekly. The Avengers is an old-fashioned, candy-colored, crash-boom action flick. The Dark Knight Rises subscribes to the action-film-as-moral-allegory model of darker hits like The Bourne Identity and War of the Worlds. Studio execs are looking to this summer's match-up to see which kind of film is more commercially viable. If The Dark Knight Rises underperforms, it could mean "the end of the notion that superhero movies can be real movies."
"Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, and the great superhero showdown"