May 7, 2012 | Christopher John Farley

Why did “The Avengers” shatter the record for the biggest opening in movie history? This weekend the film took in an estimated $200.3 million, breaking the debut weekend record set in 2011 by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ ($169.2 million).

[Update: Hollywood.com reports that Disney, the studio that distributed the Marvel movie, is now reporting an actual weekend North American box office figure of $207.4 million, which is even higher than the $200,329,000 of estimated revenues reported on Sunday.]

Here are seven reasons why “The Avengers” broke through:

1) A Great Buildup: The movies that led into its release, like “Iron Man” and “Thor,” all served as feature-length trailers for the debut of “The Avengers.” Each of the lead-in films featured a short clip that built anticipation for “The Avengers.”

2) A Solid Cast: Featuring actors like Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner let fans know that the movie wasn’t just kids’ stuff. Screening “The Avengers” as the closing film for the Tribeca Film Festival also sent the signal that this was meant to be a real movie, not “Transformers” style hackwork.

3) Multi-Generational Appeal: Characters like Captain America have been around since the 1940s; Thor, The Hulk, and Iron Man have been around since the 1960s. “The Avengers” felt fresh to kids, and was comfort food to adults. Half the attendees were over twenty five years old. 40 percent of the audience was female, so the film didn’t just appeal to boys.

4) The World Generated Buzz: “The Avengers” opened overseas before it hit its biggest market in North America. The rest of the world helped build the buzz through social media.

5) The Movie Didn’t Stink: Some top reviewers, like the Journal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Joe Morgenstern, gave the film a mixed review, but it got an A+ from CinemaScore, and currently has a 93 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While many event films disappoint, this one had good word of mouth.

6) 3-D Cost More: 52 percent of the box office take of “The Avengers” was from 3-D showings, which typically cost a few dollars more, pumping up the film’s take.

7) No Competition: The weekend’s second highest-grossing movie? “Think Like a Man,” which took in $8 million.

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