Nothing happened at the domestic box office this weekend. Well, almost nothing. The biggest news came from overseas, where "Avengers: Age of Ultron" opened almost everywhere except here.
At home, the box office seemed to be biding its time until the "Avengers" sequel opens this Friday. Meantime, "Furious 7" remained on top for the fourth straight weekend, as if no studio could be bothered to mount a serious challenge to it. "Age of Adaline" opened in third place, and "Little Boy," the weekend's other new wide release, opened way down at No. 13. Overall, the domestic box office declined for the third straight weekend, selling not even $100 million worth of tickets from Friday to Sunday.
Nonetheless, there were a few spots of good news:
• With its estimated $18.3 million take representing nearly a fifth of all ticket sales this weekend, "Furious 7" is the first film since the original "Hunger Games" in 2012 to hold the top spot at the box office for four consecutive weeks.
• "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" fell just 34 percent to an estimated $15.5 million and second place, a very modest drop for a film with terrible reviews and lackluster word-of-mouth. There aren't any other PG-rated comedies out there, so the Kevin James movie had the field to itself.
• "Age of Adaline" opened with an estimated $13.4 million, which was at the upper end of predictions. That's very good for a film with an unproven box office draw as the lead (Blake Lively), and a female-driven romantic drama opening on 2,991 screens while a Nicholas Sparks movie ("The Longest Ride") is still in 3,140 theaters.
• "Ex Machina" expanded big, from 39 screens to 1,255, and did very well, coming in seventh with an estimated $5.4 million, for a total to date of $6.9 million. That's a strong showing for a brainy, philosophical sci-fi drama with no star power. It's also indie distributor A24's biggest release, year to date, having earned more in three weeks than "A Most Violent Year" has since January or "While We're Young" has earned in five weeks.
• "Little Boy"... uh, can't really think of any good news for the faith-based World War II homefront drama that opened with just an estimated $2.8 million on 1,045 screens. Except that "Paul Blart" star Kevin James has a small, uncharacteristically dramatic role in the film, so he's in two top-15 movies at once. Woo-hoo!
Of course, all this sounds like small potatoes contrasted with "Avengers," which opened at No. 1 in 44 countries and earned an estimated $201.2 million. That's a healthy percentage above the $185.1 million that the first "Avengers" earned during its overseas opening three years ago.
The worldwide-but-not-yet-in-America smash reflects a strategy that Disney and other studios have been pursuing for a few years now of releasing some potential blockbusters abroad before releasing them here. It help builds hype for the American release, it gets the movie out ahead of the May Day holiday in many countries, and it helps recoup the studio's investment before a single American ticket is sold.
With numbers like those that "Avengers" is already racking up, it's no wonder that Hollywood now considers domestic box office an afterthought.