As of today, The Avengers is the eighth highest grossing picture of all time worldwide. By the end of this weekend it should be the fourth. There are only two movies to have grossed over two billion worldwide – Avatar and Titanic – and it’s looking unlikely that The Avengers will make it to that territory. But it should be able to capsize Battleship this weekend. Easily.

There are two ways of looking at Universal’s release plan for Battleship. The film came out internationally a month ago, and has accrued over $200 Million already – though it’s slowed recently because of Avengers. One is that international, now more than ever, is the name of the game. And if there’s been more and more talk about international numbers, it’s simply because they can and often do twice as much if not more than domestic.They are the ones who show if a film is profitable or not.

A decade ago, we saw more and more co-productions from studios, where they would split the cost and one studio would keep domestic and another would hold foreign rights. Films like Starship Troopers and Master and Commander would often have two or sometimes three studios attached. It was because the films were then so expensive that they would rather not shoulder the $100 Million dollar budgets (or more) under one roof.

Now that we’re in an era of franchises, why would anyone want to share rights? The only studios that do that now are companies like MGM, which are so beleaguered that they don’t have a full release schedule, and don’t need to keep people around who would be working on two or three titles a year. And if international is the name of the game, then opening in America first – piracy concerns or no – is secondary. In some cases, we’ve seen Japan or England get the jump on America by a couple of days, but we may see more event films follow Battleship‘s lead.

The other way of looking at it is that Universal was scared of their film doing mediocre business against some of the more well known titles like The Avengers and Men in Black 3, and wanted to get the jump on the competition, and avoid any conflicts with soccer. They have $200 in the bank now because of their strategy, but had they gone with a worldwide date, it may have been much, much less.

Box office has been moving to report international more and more, and eventually – within the next couple years – we should see those international numbers come in at the same time as the domestic numbers. And not just when Disney needs to suggest that John Carter wasn’t a failure in its opening weekend.

The down side is that with more global thinking, it means – as the industry has been doing for some time – that they’re going to focus on films that are that much easier to export, and not titles that are necessarily wordy or smart. Often times, not even movie smart. Make no doubt about it, we’re in the era of fast food cinema.

The Dictator opened on Wednesday, and should do okay, but likely didn’t cost much. Sacha Baron Cohen is a known quantity, and it could do some business as a comedy-comedy (unlike Dark Shadows). What to Expect When You’re Expecting is also opening, which is going for the counter-programming business. Pregnancy is a harder date-night sell, though.

So Top Five it is:

  1. The Avengers – $62.4 Million
  2. Battleship – $38.7 Million
  3. The Dictator – $17.8 Million
  4. What to Expect When You’re Expecting – $15.3 Million
  5. Dark Shadows – $12.5 Million

And then Sunday will see if Battleship can surpass expectations, or if it gets sunk.

What are you going to watch this weekend?