'Avengers' Could Foretell Record Summer

JULY: "The Dark Knight Rises"

The conclusion of Nolan's wildly successful Batman trilogy aims to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.

Does success breed success at the box office?

In summer 2007, no fewer than three films released in May -- Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- earned north of $300 million domestically (and, in the case of World's End, $403.7 million), leading to a then-record summer haul. Now Hollywood is hoping the huge Avengers bow will lead to a summer that matches last year's $4.3 billion domestic record. "It gives you momentum for the rest of May and is good for the entire business," says Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore, who will open Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator on May 16. Avengers audiences were subjected to trailers for summer's two other superhero pics, The Amazing Spider-Man (July 6) and The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), and the hope is that audiences who gave Avengers an A+ Cinemascore will eagerly return to see early-summer tentpoles Battleship (May 18), Men in Black 3 (May 25) and Prometheus (June 8). Still, no one envies Warner Bros., which opens Johnny Depp's high-profile Tim Burton collaboration Dark Shadows on May 11. Warners believes the film will do fine since early tracking suggests women are most interested, but if Avengers continues on its current history-making pace, it could drain interest in May and even June rivals. -- Pamela McClintock