Film News

Ant-Man Tracking for $65 Million Debut, But Marvel Studios Usually Beats Expectations

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Tracking services have [Ant-Man] debuting in the $55 million-$65 million range, but may believe it will come in on the high end, considering Marvel’s track record.”  By recent Marvel Studios standards, that’s actually a bit on the low side, but it would actually be a victory considering Ant-Man‘s lower-than-normal production budget ($130 million), soap opera-like development history, and seemingly goofy premise of a man who becomes teensy tiny and uses a helmet to control ants.

However, as I have covered in extensive detail elsewhere on the site [here’s the link], tracking services are almost always wrong these days when it comes to pre-release projections for big movies.  The various tracking agencies used by the studios base their projections on historical data for similar movies, telephone surveys conducted at least 3 times a week in the five weeks leading up to the release, and various other factors.  We treat their projections like weather forecasts when in fact their actual goal is to simply provide studios with ballpark figures which can help them decide where to spend their advertising dollars.  A forecasting insider told Deadline, “We’re not paid to predict box office, rather identify pockets of strength, threats and opportunities in the marketplace for the studio. … It’s a five-week journey with daily phone calls.” The co-founder of what was once the leading tracking agency, New Research Group, told Variety, “The real intention (of tracking) was to gauge advertising materials and where a film falls within the competitive landscape.”

So, really, what that $55 million-$65 million range means for Ant-Man is that Marvel Studios now has a general idea of what kind of opening they might be in for if they change nothing about their marketing strategy from this point forward.  They’ve probably also been given loads of demographic data telling them where pre-release awareness of Ant-Man is strongest and where it is the weakest.  Maybe they were told they needed to do more to help audiences understand Ant-Man‘s connection to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  So, they brought back Leslie Bibb’s reporter character from the first two Iron Man movies, and made her the face of a viral marketing campaign in which a new MCU news infotainment program links the events of Age of Ultron to Ant-Man:

If the past is any indication, Marvel Studios will probably manage to grow Ant-Man‘s potential audience in the next two weeks and deliver an opening well above projections.  They’ve done that now for every single movie they’ve released since The Avengers, only coming in under projections with this year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron:

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3Pre-Release Projection:

“Based on tracking, Iron Man 3 could open between $135 million and $145 million in North America, ahead of the $128.1 million debut of Iron Man 2 three years ago.” –THR

Actual Opening: $174.1 million

Thor: The Dark World

thor_the_dark_world_ver2Pre-Release Projection:

“The sequel, returning Chris Hemsworth to the title role, debuted on tracking Thursday, and is pacing to open north of $75 million, according to rival studios with access to tracking.” –THR

Actual Opening: $85.7 million

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

new-captain-america-the-winter-soldier-poster-lands-155226-a-1391176963-470-75Pre-Release Projection:

“Box-office observers believe the sequel will open north of $80 million domestically. More bullish forecasters believe it will hit $85 million, as sequel Thor: The Dark World did.” –THR

Actual Opening: $95 million

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-poster-2Pre-Release Projection:

“Gunning for one of the top August openings of all time in North America, Guardians of the Galaxy is expected to open to at least $65 million this weekend, a strong start for Marvel Studios’ new franchise. Some believe director James Gunn‘s Guardians has a shot at approaching, or crossing, $70 million, although no one is placing any bets considering the steep downturn overall at the summer box office.” –THR

Actual Opening: $94.3 million

Avengers: Age of Ultron

International-Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster-700x989Pre-Release Projection:

“Most are betting that Age of Ultron will launch to $210 million or better for the weekend, setting a new threshold for how high a film can open (one tracking service even has it at $224 million) […] According to Fandango, presales for Age of Ultron are equal to presales for all previous Marvel films combined, while MovieTickets.com reports that advance sales are nearly four times greater than The Avengers.” –THR

Actual Opening: $191.2 million

Age of Ultron was a bitch to predict because the first Avengers set the record for biggest opening weekend.  Until Jurassic World came along later this summer, no other movie had ever opened with more than $200 million.  Plus, no one accounted for the competition Age of Ultron ultimately received from the boxing PPV event, Pacquiao vs Mayweather.  As such, as far as projection vs. actual performance is concerned Age of Ultron is an outlier in Marvel Studios history unless Ant-Man also fails to meet or beat expectations.

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7 comments

  1. I actually would ballpark Ant-Man between 80 and 95 million, based on the performances of the other Marvel movies. Granted, originally the audience seemed to be lukewarm, but since they stepped up the marketing a lot of people seem to be (finally) genuinely excited and get what great effects you can do with a shrinking man. Plus, the first reactions are very positive and everyone who has seen it is talking about the teasers.

    1. Agreed. Based upon Marvel’s history, I would be very surprised if Ant-Man doesn’t at least finish $10m above the range quoted by THR. It is opening up against Trainwreck, Amy Schumer’s first movie which might be a bit of a wild card considering how it is aimed at women and we’ve repeatedly seen how surprisingly important women can be to a comic book movie’s opening weekend. Plus, it will have the second weekend of Minions to worry about. However, everything you said about Ant-Man’s current marketing momentum and word-of-mouth lines up with what I’ve noticed as well. There are newer tracking agencies who attempt to base box office projections on social media activity in addition to other traditional factors, and although they were wrong about Inside Out just like everyone else they were a lot closer than the projections quoted by THR in the days before the movie’s release. I’d be curious to see what they’re thinking about Ant-Man right now.

      1. I can’t gauge how popular Amy Schumer is in the US, but the premise of the movie sounds like a bore and the title is unfortunate, to say at least. It’s certainly a wild card. Minions…well, I guess fans of the minions will see it, but there are more than enough people who are not into cute side-kicks at all. In both cases, though, the target group is slightly different…there are some overlaps, but they don’t go for exactly the same audience. I guess it will spread out in the end.
        Did you know that Inside out is scheduled to be shown in my country in freaking October? Disney has lost its mind. Those long wait already ruined the international box office momentum for Big Hero 6 and now they do the same with Inside out? What is wrong with them?

      2. Amy Schumer has gobs of social media support and momentum right now, although she very recently has come under attack for her jokes about race. However, every single episode in the current season of her show Inside Amy Schumer has produced at least one viral video, every pop culture site practically falling over themselves with praise the next morning. She seems primed to break through in a big way, but Inside Amy Schumer is still just a Comedy Central show. Plus, I think she’s hilarious, but I haven’t laughed at all at any of the trailers for Trainwreck.

        As for Disney’s release strategy with its animated films, I have no idea why they are suddenly staggering them out internationally. It’s the complete opposite of what they do with the Marvel movies, which are almost all released in most major foreign markets before hitting North America.

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