Part of me – a very small part, admittedly – wondered if Thor: The Dark World could maintain Marvel’s miraculous performance at the box office. Iron Man 3 carried the studio’s torch in a post-Avengers world, but it also had the benefit of being the first blockbuster of the Summer 2013 season. Could Thor also capitalize on Marvel’s monetary momentum?

It appears so. The Hollywood Reporter states that Alan Taylor’s mythical sequel took in an estimated $7.1 million in Thursday evening screenings, which started at 8 p.m. last night.

Impressive, but what does that mean? It totally depends on what you are comparing Thor to. When compared to Kenneth Branagh’s original Thor, the sequel’s already a runaway success. That film earned $3.2M in midnight grosses back in 2011 (though as the trade notes, it actually opened at midnight, and not at 8 p.m.) However, Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 banked a whopping $15.6M during its midnight screenings. Does that mean Thor is on track to earn half of Iron Man’s ridiculous $174-million opening weekend gross?

It’s too easy to get lost in numbers when the Marvel movies roll into theaters. And it’s silly. Thor already is off to a monumental start, having grossed north of $150 million in international territories before even screening in a single American theater. There is no other legitimate box-office competition on the horizon for Thor until The Hunger Games drops Catching Fire on audiences on Nov. 22. And the Marvel brand is about as strong as possible right now. Audiences clamor for bits of information not just on Thor, but on future projects like Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

And the Marvel universe rolls on. So for this weekend, at the very least, we’ll pay attention as to whether Thor: The Dark World can come close to matching the totals banked by its immediate predecessors in Iron Man 3 and The Avengers. But if it falls short, is it really falling short at all? The movie still will dominate worldwide markets, will extend the Marvel brand, and will whet whistles for the Marvel movies still to come to theaters, Netflix, and points in between.

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