The Year of the Comic Book Movie off to strong start

Deadpool publicity still

Deadpool publicity still

The Year of the Comic Book Movie got off to a strong start at the box office, with 20th Century-Fox’s Deadpool generating an estimated $135 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada for the Feb. 12-14 weekend, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and VARIETY.

For some perspective, Deadpool’s opening weekend is shaping up to be almost twice the $70.4 million that SPECTRE generated in its opening weekend in November. It’s more than the entire worldwide run ($109.8 million) for 2015’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Deadpool’s box office for the four-day President’s Day weekend may be $150 million, according to the two entertainment websites.

Deadpool drew a lot of attention because of its R rating and stepped up violence. The character is part of Marvel Comics’ X-Men group of characters for which Fox obtained the film rights before Marvel began making its own movies in 2008. (THIS STORY from The Hollywood Reporter has more about the character’s comic book roots.)

Besides Marvel and Fox, Warner Bros. is boosting its output of comic book based movies this year with Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. The Superman-Batman movie is intended to lead into a two-part movie version of the Justice League of America super hero group.

Some prominent filmmakers, such as director William Friedkin, have expressed unhappiness with the rise of comic book movies, saying they’re ruining cinema.

The increased output has raised questions whether for comic book films is becoming saturated. Even before this year’s surge, there were flops, such as Fox’s 2015 Fantastic Four movie.

Director Steven Spielberg last year told The Associated Press last year that such movies will “go the way of the Western.”

Based on Deadpool’s opening, not yet. But another interesting test will come next month with Batman v. Superman.

Warner Bros. has had trouble making movies based on DC Comics characters other than Batman.

Superman Returns in 2006 film ended up being a one-shot, although it did generate $200 million in U.S.-Canada box office ($391 million worldwide). A 2011 Green Lantern movie (starring Ryan Reynolds, the star of Deadpool) was an expensive flop. The Martin Campbell-directed film had an estimated production budget of $200 million, but only generated $219.9 million in global box office.

A 2013 try at Superman, Man of Steel, did OK, but didn’t match the box office of a lot of Marvel films. Batman v. Superman follows up on that movie, using actor Henry Cavill as Superman.

Last week, Warners brought out its final Batman v. Superman trailer that was Batman-centric, playing up Ben Affleck’s performance as the Bob Kane-Bill Finger character. The movie has been rescheduled twice. Warners faces a situation where anything less than $1 billion in worldwide box office will be cast as a disappointment.

Still in the wings: Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War in May (which caused Batman v. Superman to reschedule to March) and another X-Men movie from Fox. There’s a long way to go to see how all this turns out.

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.