Box Office Preview: Will 'Thor: The Dark World' Near $90 Million in Domestic Debut?

Marvel Studios and Disney's 3D tentpole Thor: The Dark World continues to gather strength as it prepares to open Thursday night at the domestic box office, where it now has a shot at eclipsing the $88.4 million opening of James Bond pic Skyfall on the same weekend a year ago.

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Based on initial prerelease tracking, box-office observers were expecting Thor 2 -- returning Chris Hemsworth in the title role -- to gross a healthy $75 million in its domestic launch, easily exceeding the $65.7 million opening of the original Thor in May 2011.

But with the film's mammoth showing overseas -- it's earned $133.4 million in less than a week -- and the rising interest in North America, tracking now suggests Thor 2 will open notably higher. Thor 2's performance also will be boosted by a last-minute decision to carry the film in roughly 305 Imax locations in the U.S. and Canada (it wills share space with Ender's Game).

Thor 2 will be playing in 3,841 North American theaters as of 8 p.m. Thursday, including more than 3,100 3D venues. Overseas, the movie should continue to rack up substantial grosses this weekend, including in China, where it opens Friday. Don't be surprised if Thor 2's global gross is well north of $300 million by Sunday. As a way of comparison, the first Thor took in a total of $449.3 million globally.

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The record opening for early November is currently held by 2012's Skyfall, while The Twilight Saga: New Moon is the record-holder for best November opening with $142.8 million. (The franchise installment opened Nov. 20, 2009).

Most films are staying out of Thor 2's way, although both 12 Years a Slave and About Time will make major expansions this weekend, hoping to provide counterprogramming.

Thor 2, like Iron Man 3, is expected to benefit from 2012 global blockbuster The Avengers, the crown jewel of Marvel's superhero film empire. Avengers, which features Hemsworth as Thor and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, among other Marvel characters, earned $1.5 billion worldwide to become the No. 3 film of all time behind Avatar and Titanic.

Thor 2 is sparking interest among all quadrants of the moviegoing audience. Interest is high among younger females for a superhero film, likely due to Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, who likewise returns for the follow-up alongside Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba. Thor 2 is also tracking well among Hispanics.

Kenneth Branagh directed the first Thor, while the sequel is from filmmaker Alan Taylor.

Thor 2 takes place one year after the events of The Avengers, as Thor reunites with Jane Foster (Portman) and tries to save his planet from a mysterious enemy. Thor also forms an uneasy alliance with his adoptive brother, Loki (Hiddleston).

 
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