How Black Panther may be the future of Marvel films

Black Panther poster

UPDATE (Feb. 19): Black Panther’s U.S. box office for Friday-Sunday ended up at $201 million, Exhibitors Relations said on Twitter. 

ORIGINAL POST (Feb. 18): Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, is being celebrated as a huge moment for black America. Examples include The New York Times Magazine (“a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries”) and The Guardian (“The film is already being regarded in the US as a positive force for social change”),

It may also be a sign of Marvel’s future.

Black Panther’s estimated Friday-Sunday U.S. box office is $192 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

That figure would be (unadjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices), the No. 2 U.S. opening for Marvel. Here are the other movies in Marvel’s top five (all of which eventually topped $1 billion at the worldwide box office):

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012): $207.4 million.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): $191.3 million.

Captain America: Civil War (2016): $179.1 million.

Iron Man 3 (2013): $174.1 million.

Of the Marvel top five, Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman) is the only one not to include Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark/Iron Man.

It was 2008’s Iron Man where Marvel began making its own films, instead of licensing the rights to others. The movie became the building block upon which Marvel built is movie universe. Four years later, with Marvel’s The Avengers, the notion of a “shared universe” became big business.

Some have wondered whether Marvel could withstand Downey’s eventual departure. The actor turns 53 in April and it’s not the kind of thing you can keep doing forever. Other major Marvel actors such as Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have reached the end of their contracts.

What’s more, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and an unnamed Avengers film in 2019 is intended as a kind of finale for Marvel films up to now. So, a decade after its first movie, Marvel Studios has reached a transition point.

Black Panther already is a popular and critical (a 97 percent “fresh” score on the Rotten Tomatoes website) success.

Beyond that, Black Panther shows that Marvel is capable of extending itself beyond its first decade of making movies. Black Panther seems destined to join Marvel’s billion-dollar club (it’s at $361 million globally as of this weekend). The movie also is broadening Marvel’s appeal. We’ll see what happens.

Justice League: Epilogue

Justice League movie logo

Well, the Justice League’s soap opera has come to an end and it’s not looking pretty from a financial standpoint.

After three weekends in the U.S. the Warner Bros. superhero movie has an estimated box office of $197.3 million.

For the average film, that’s great. But when the budget is an estimated $250 million to $300 million, not so much.

By contrast, Warners’ 2016 Batman v Superman generated $166 million on its opening weekend.

Justice League’s opening weekend  was $93.8 million. Again, great for most movies. But it failed to match the opening weekend of other films based on DC Comics characters such as Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman.

Justice League is the big DC team of heroes, comprised of its leading characters. Compare it to Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012, which had an opening weekend of $207.4 million. Its sequel, Avengers Age of Ultron, had a U.S. opening weekend of $191.3 million.

The two Avengers movies had ultimate global box of more than $1 billion ($1.5 billion for the first, $1.4 billion for the second).

Justice League may end up at less than half of that. Forbes.com estimates it will generate less than the $668 million global box office of 2013’s Man of Steel.

The lesson? Nothing’s a sure thing. Justice League didn’t lack for effort. It was the effort of two directors, Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. (Whedon isn’t credited but does share in the screenplay credit).

The latter directed those two billion-dollar Avengers films. So he ended up re-shooting much of the movie. But, at least at the box office, Whedon’s sensibilities and style didn’t transfer to Justice League.

Beginning of the end: Avengers trailer unveiled

Marvel Studios today unveiled the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, the third Avengers film due out in May 2018.

The movie, combined with a fourth (and still untitled) Avengers film in May 2019, is intended to represent a finale for the various interconnected movies Marvel has produced since 2008.

At least that’s what Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios, told Vanity Fair. “There will be two distinct periods,” Feige said. “Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting.”

Avengers: Infinity War includes Thanos, a villain who was teased during sequences in the end titles of 2012’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. There has also been speculation the third and fourth Avengers movie may cost a combined $500 million.

Anyway, the trailer is embedded below. Things look pretty dire at times.

 

Joss Whedon takes over post-production for Justice League

Justice League movie logo

Joss Whedon, who directed two Avengers movies for Marvel Studios, is overseeing Justice League during post-production, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That’s because director Zack Snyder and his wife, producer Deborah Snyder are taking time off to “deal with the sudden death of his daughter.”

The Snyders, according to THR, are focusing on “the healing of their family.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Stepping in to shepherd the movie through post and the shooting of some additional scenes will be Joss Whedon, the Avengers filmmaker and creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With Whedon’s help, the movie is still on track for its Nov. 17 release date.

Snyder’s daughter, Autumn Snyder, died by suicide in March at age 20. Her death has been kept private, with only a small inner circle aware of what happened, even as the movie was put on a two-week break for the Snyders to deal with the immediate effects of the tragedy.

Justice League is a follow-up to last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Justice League is the main super hero group of DC Comics. The league made its debut in 1959 (and was a successor to the 1940s Justice Society of America).

“The demands of this job are pretty intense,” Snyder told THR. “It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization …I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me.”

According to the entertainment news website, “Snyder, after screening a rough cut of Justice League for fellow filmmakers and friends, wanted to add additional scenes, so he brought Whedon on board to write them.

“But as he prepared to shoot the scenes in England, Snyder realized it was not the time to leave home.”

Eon vs. Marvel by the numbers, 2006 to present

Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor vs. the Hulk, a highlight of Avengers: Age of Ultron

“James Bond?” Tony Stark asked. “Who’s that?”

With no actual James Bond news to report, we take another look, via statistics, at the family model (Eon) vs. the corporate model (Marvel).

Appearances by your most popular actor, 2006-present

Eon:  Daniel Craig, four (4), Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, SPECTRE. Note: You could say five (5) if you count this 2011 public service announcement for International Women’s Day produced by Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions.

Update: The James Bond Dossier asks whether we should up the count to six (6) by including Craig’s appearance in the opening ceremonies  of the 2012 Summer Olympics. That was part of a television show.

That was also similar to how Roger Moore played James Bond in a 1964 variety show, years before he became the actual film Bond. Doing that would raise Sir Roger’s 007 count to eight (8). Though the Spy Commander knows some Bond fans (who really, really don’t like Moore in the role) who’d argue it should be zero (0).

Meanwhile, the organizers of the 2011 public service announcement said their spot said was “the first film featuring Bond to be directed by a woman.” (Sam Taylor-Wood). Is a commercial considered a “film”? Details, details.

Marvel: Robert Downey Jr., seven (7):  Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (cameo),  Iron Man II, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man Three, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War.

Biggest box office movie: Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), $1.5 billion (worldwide); Skyfall (2012), $1.11 billion (worldwide).

Next movie to be released in theaters: Dr. Strange (Marvel), Nov. 4, 2016 (U.S. and Canada). Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Eon), 2017. Bond 25 (Eon), who knows?

Trivia: Bond 22, aka Quantum of Solace, was originally scheduled to be released on May 2, 2008, in the U.S. and Canada. After that movie was delayed to November, Iron Man got the May 2 release date.

 

Cap: Civil War has 2016’s biggest movie opening in U.S.

Captain America: Civil War logo

Captain America: Civil War logo

UPDATE (May 9, 2016): The movie’s actual weekend box office was revised on Monday to $179.1 million.

Captain America: Civil War is posting the biggest weekend opening in the U.S. and Canada, with an estimated $181.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

The movie, which kicks off “Phase III” for Marvel Studios movies, has enjoyed favorable reviews, with a 91 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

While officially the third Captain America movie since 2011, Civil War concerns a rift among members of the Avengers, Marvel’s group of super heroes, whether they should submit to international oversight of their activities.

The movie also marked the introduction of the newest version of Spider-Man, who this time will be part of Marvel’s film universe. Future Spider-Man solo films will continue to be released by Sony Pictures.

Other major U.S.-Canada openings this year include Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166 million), Deadpool ($132.4 million) The Jungle Book ($103.3 million) and Zootopia ($75 million).

Civil War, while being a de facto Avengers film, didn’t match the U.S. openings of either 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers ($207.4 million) or 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million).

SPECTRE: the glass half-full, half-empty edition

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE has been in U.S. theaters for a week and other markets before that. On social media, there are diverging views among fans, with some taking a glass half-full approach while others see a glass half empty.

What follows summarizes both views concerning SPECTRE-related topics.

SPECTRE’s U.S.-Canada box office opening weekend: The 24th James Bond generated U.S.-Canada box office of $70.4 million.

Glass half-full: It’s one of the biggest openings in the region in 2015, ahead of such popular films as Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation ($55.5 million) and Marvel’s Ant-Man ($57.2 million). Warner Bros., whose movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had a total U.S.-Canada box office of $45.4 million, would have killed for half of SPECTRE’s opening.

Glass half-empty: SPECTRE’s U.S.-Canada opening was 20 percent lower than Skyfall’s $88.4 million despite higher ticket prices over the past three years. On Internet message boards and other outlets, some Bond fans were looking for $90 million or $100 million.

SPECTRE’s opening trailed Fifty Shades of Grey ($85.2 million) and wasn’t even close to the likes of Jurassic World ($208.8 million) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million).

SPECTRE reviews: After many positive reviews in the United Kingdom, U.S. reviews were more mixed, bringing SPECTRE’s “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website to 64 percent as of Nov. 12.

Glass half-full: A majority of the reviews are still positive, including reviews from the likes of The Atlantic, The Detroit News, Leonard Maltin, NPR (one of two reviews), Time magazine, USA Today and Rolling Stone.

Glass half-empty: Skyfall’s “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 93 percent. That’s a long way down. Some fans on social media say the negative SPECTRE reviews may have hurt the movie’s box office.

On the latter point, early James Bond movies — now considered classic — didn’t always get positive reviews either. Time magazine, in reviewing Dr. No., referred to Bond as a “Hairy Marshmallow.”

The New York Times IN ITS REVIEW of Dr. No, liked 007’s screen debut while looking down upon it at the same time.

 This lively, amusing picture…is not to be taken seriously as realistic fiction or even art, any more than the works of Mr. (Ian) Fleming are to be taken as long-hair literature. It is strictly a tinseled action-thriller, spiked with a mystery of a sort. And, if you are clever, you will see it as a spoof of science-fiction and sex. (emphasis added)

(snip)

For the crime-detecting adventure that Mr. Bond is engaged in here is so wildly exaggerated, so patently contrived, that it is obviously silly and not to be believed.

The nature of fandom

SPECTRE teaser poster

Fans feel possessive of what they like, whether it be James Bond or something else.

It’s no secret that fans — whether they like James Bond or other characters — can feel a little possessive. But there’s an interesting essay about the hazards of giving fans what they want.

The article appeared on the DEN OF GEEK WEBSITE. But before we provide the details, here’s a passage of James Hunt’s essay that applies to any fandom.

Fandom at its best is a celebration of a shared enthusiasm for something, but it takes only a little nudging to turn it. Fandoms start off based on something good, but they soon start to feel like they own the thing they love, and that the creators employed to write (or draw, or direct) that thing are only stewards who have to feed the fandom beast or meet with disapproval. Things turn toxic.

(snip)

The lesson? Be careful what you wish for. Not because you might get it, but because you risk getting only that and nothing else. It’s fine to think about what you might like to see. It’s fine to criticise developments you don’t enjoy. But once you expect anything more specific than a well-told story, you may have to blame yourself if you don’t even get that.

On related note, years ago a friend who had been actor said something to the effect, “The only thing an actor owes an audience is his or her best performance.”

Yet, if you’ve been on social media or checked out Internet message boards, many fans do feel a sense of ownership. It’s certainly true that fan dollars support the entertainment. Yet, sometimes things go beyond that.

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, some fans severely criticize it as betraying the 1964-68 original series because of alterations to the backgrounds of the lead characters. Clearly, director Guy Ritchie stripped a lot of memes from the series out of his movie to concentrate on the characters, played in the film by Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

Anyway, the Hunt essay is about Avengers: Age of Ultron. It also includes this quote from the late Marvel Comics writer Mark Gruenwald: “The writer’s job isn’t to give the fans what they want. The writer’s job is to give the fans what they didn’t even know they wanted.”

The full essay can be viewed BY CLICKING HERE. While it’s primarily about this year’s Avengers film, it’s worth checking out for any fan of any popular entertainment.

It’s particularly worth reading for 007 fans before publicity for SPECTRE gears up.

The comic book movie ‘glut’ of 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Over the past few months, we’ve been reading various comments on social media such as, “I’m tired of all of the comic book movies!” Or “Comic book movies are ruining the cinema.”

We’re not quite five-and-a-half months into the year. How many have there actually been?

Well, most prominently, there’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers. As of June 8, it had worldwide box office of $1.35 billion, ACCORDING TO BOX OFFICE MOJO.

That’s less than the $1.5 billion for the 2012 original and the $1.51 billion for this year’s Furious 7. Still, most studio executives would kill for box office exceeding $1 billion. Also, Avengers: Age of Ultron’s budget still came in $50 million cheaper (with location shooting in South Africa, South Korea and Italy) than SPECTRE and its $300 million (or more) budget.

Other comic book-based films released so far? Well, there’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which based on a limited series of comics and revamped significantly from the original. After that, not so many.

What’s coming in the second half of 2015? There’s Marvel’s Ant-Man in July and Fox’s new attempt at a Fantastic Four movie in early August. After that….not so many.

Granted, movie goers have been seeing a teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. But that won’t be out until March 2016. Granted, Marvel/Disney and Warner Bros./DC have announced slates of comic book-based films going out to 2020. But they’re not out this year.

A half-century ago, James Bond films were dismissed by some critics as little more than comic books. Older Bond fans seethe at the memory. At the same time, some of those same fans look at comic book-based films the same way those 1960s critics looked at Bond. The more things change, they more they stay the same.

Avengers sequel has U.S. opening of ‘only’ $191 million

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

UPDATE (May 4): The actual box office figure came out today. It was a little better than the original estimate on Sunday — $191.3 million.

ORIGINAL POST (May 3) Avengers: Age of Ultron generated estimated U.S. ticket sales of $187.7 million, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO.COM.

That’s an enormous opening for any other movie, but it fell short of the $207.4 million opening of 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers.

Movie box office figures are now covered similar to corporate earnings and monthly auto sales. The figures are gauged against expectations and projections. When the numbers exceed estimates, it’s written as a success. When the numbers fall short, they are often viewed as a disappointment.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “tracking” numbers indicated an opening of $190 million to $230 million.

When the movie didn’t make that level, there was some spinning to do, if this excerpt from the Times story is an indication.

The studio, however, adjusted its expectations on Saturday evening given several major competing events, including the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao “fight of the century” in Las Vegas that kept some potential moviegoers in front of TV sets instead.

“Between the boxing match, NHL and NBA playoffs, the Kentucky Derby … looks like folks were distracted,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution. “But the second-biggest opening in history of movie business is something to be proud of and also just the beginning of what we expect to be a spectacular run.”

In a SEPARATE STORY, Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo wrote that repeating a $200 million-plus was going to be hard.

“In the years since the first movie’s opening, no other title has opened anywhere close to $200 million,” Subers wrote. “To make it that high required a perfect storm of factors, which Age of Ultron couldn’t quite replicate.”

Marvel still looks to have an overall financial success. The movie had an estimated production budget of $250 million. According to Box Office Mojo, its worldwide ticket sales are $626.7 million already. The general rule of thumb is that a movie needs to bring in about 2.5 times to 3 times its production budget to be profitable. The original Avengers movie had worldwide box office of $1.5 billion.

Marvel is an example of the corporate model of making films, which emphasizes planning and predictability. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the climax of Marvel’s “Phase Two” of films. The studio already has outlined films for “Phase Three,” which will culminate in a two-part Avengers movie being released in 2018 and 2019.