Avengers assemble for final battle in 'Endgame'

LOS ANGELES, USAAfter nearly two dozen films and billions of dollars in ticket sales around the globe, the Avengers are gearing up for a final time – and their last adventure could shatter all box office records.

Avengers: Endgame is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe, many of them the creations of late comic book legend Stan Lee.

It hits theaters this week  parts of Asia and Europe get the first view of the 3-hour epic on Wednesday, and it gets its wide release in the US and Canada on Friday, April 26. Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history. (IN PHOTOS: Filipino fans line up to watch 'Avengers: Endgame')

That would easily beat out the previous record holder, Avengers: Infinity War, the first part of the "Infinity Saga"  as it was dubbed by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who has produced every single movie in the franchise  which opened in 2018 with $640.5 million.

After Monday's star-studded world premiere in Hollywood, the 6 original Avengers celebrated the end of the road Tuesday at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre.

LA WORLD PREMIERE. Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Robert Downey Jr. speak onstage during the Los Angeles World Premiere of Marvel Studios' u0022Avengers: Endgameu0022 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on April 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney/AFP

LA WORLD PREMIERE. Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Robert Downey Jr. speak onstage during the Los Angeles World Premiere of Marvel Studios' u0022Avengers: Endgameu0022 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on April 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney/AFP

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) assembled for a final time with Feige at the TCL Chinese Theatre, where they signed blocks of cement and marked them with handprints.

"It's been an amazing ride," Ruffalo  who attempted a handstand while waiting for the cement to set  said of the 10-year project.

What an honor to have the legacy of @marvelstudios Avengers live on forever at @ChineseTheatres #AvengersEndgame pic.twitter.com/NagS0SAPma — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) April 23, 2019

The 21 preceding films have earned about $19 billion globally, and though "Endgame" marks the end of the current narrative arc, Marvel Studios is far from through.

#DontSpoilTheEndgame 

Even as they mark the end of what Johansson called a "wonderful" experience, Marvel Studios has already announced several new projects: in addition to sequels for Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange, there will also be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Eternals, and Black Widow, the second Marvel universe film to give a female character solo top billing.

"The fun thing about an ending is that you eventually get to do a new beginning," Feige told AFP.

"So yes, there will be a new beginning, but right now, it's about this combination of 22 movies. That's what we're most excited for."

In preparation for the marvelous cinematic conclusion, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo took to Twitter to post a letter to "the greatest fans in the world."

"This is it," they wrote. "This is the end. The end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic spanning eleven years and eleven franchises."

They acknowledged the massive impact that the Avengers series has had on its fans, saying it was for "all of you who have been on this journey with us since the very beginning."

Fans have been on the edge of their seats for the conclusion, and the cast has been notoriously tight-lipped during the press tour for fear of potential spoilers.

But someone couldn't wait: on Sunday, five minutes of "Endgame" footage containing crucial plot points from the finale were anonymously posted online, prompting the Russo brothers' letter.

The brothers concluded their message with an appeal: not to spoil the end of the movie.

"Remember," the Russo brothers said, "Thanos still demands your silence. #DontSpoilTheEndgame."

View this post on Instagram #DontSpoilTheEndgame A post shared by Marvel Studios (@marvelstudios) on Apr 16, 2019 at 11:37am PDT

Rappler.com