All right, the non-wait is over! Though we get great movies all year round now, the summer season is when the year’s big tentpoles start hitting theaters at one to two a week. This weekend we get The Avengers, Marvel’s much hyped bringing-together of four of their biggest superheroes, and two other people.
The Avengers has a tactical advantage over some of the other big summer movies, just as The Dark Knight Rises will when it comes out July 20. For the former, it starts the season, which means people aren’t sick of big event films and like the idea that it’s big movie time. For Rises it’s about being the last big film out, which means it will play clear into September. But this year is interesting as we have more questionable sequels and reboots than years past, which means that The Avengers has a couple of weeks to itself as an event film. You can’t say that Dark Shadows or The Dictator have the same heat, though it will be interesting to see how Battleship hits on May 18.
But Avengers has two weeks of the field all to itself. That shouldn’t matter. Even though there’s no number in the title, this is a sequel in many ways, and we’re going to wake up to midnight showings doing $30-$40 Million. And Marvel, bless them, made sure that the film could maximize their weekend potential by being in both 3-D and Imax. The question is how big can it go? The biggest midnight is $43 Million (set by Harry Potter‘s conclusion) The biggest opening weekend is $169 Million (also Potter). the film has already made $260 Million worldwide, which means that by weekend’s close the film should be in the black if it’s $220 Million budget is accurate. But then it’s a question of front loading. Will people be done with the film in two weeks, or will it have repeat value? Or is the repeat business now also compacted?
The problem with the numbers racket is that people like to use it as validation. But – as always – it’s only a validation of marketing and branding. It’s funny to note some critics (many older) talk about this as if it’s still just a nerd thing. The biggest films of the year are all fantasy comic book and science fiction films (and then there’s the Pixar-style blockbusters). Pop culture is nerd culture, or there’s been such a paradigm shift with inflation and expendable incomes that it’s nerds who can take a film to a $400 Million domestic cume. It’s either or, and that’s the math.
And perhaps it’s best to look past the nerd label, because it gives these films some sort of underdog sheen. There’s nothing underdog about opening to $150 Million plus. And Marvel – as a studio and brand – is no better or worse than 20th Century Fox.
Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man came out ten years ago. Though it was ushered in by the successes of films like Blade and X-Men, it made over $400 Million dollars and changed how studios thought about the comic book genre. The genre changed action movies and summer tentpoles. The question now is: how long can they sustain? Will wee see these films in ten years, will we have a reboot of The Avengers with a whole new cast in 2022? Or will it eventually run its course and eventually prove too cost prohibitive? We’ll see how audience take to a rebooted Spider-Man later this year. And that will tell us much.
But as for this weekend, The Avengers will make over $150 Million. I’m going to go with $165 Million. Almost but not quite the record. And that’s that.
What are you going to see this weekend?