So, Avengers: Infinity War is coming out a week earlier domestically. Huh. Can’t say I saw that coming, but it’s not exactly shocking:
- Marvel Studios (and the rest of Hollywood, really) usually releases its live-action blockbusters a week or two earlier overseas anyway. So, Infinity War was already due to come out the last week of April in most major territories. Yesterday’s decision simply spared those of us in the U.S. and/or Canada the annoyance of having to wait a week longer than everyone else. Granted, this still completely breaks with historical precedent, but so did releasing Guardians of the Galaxy in August, Winter Soldier in April, The Dark World in November, and Black Panther in February. Flipping a giant middle finger to industry convention is kind of Marvel Studios’ thing.
- Deadpool 2 forced Disney’s hand. The industry clearly smells blood in the water on the distressed looking Solo: A Star Wars Story. So, Fox moved Deadpool 2 up to open the week before Solo. That also meant Deadpool 2 was suddenly going to open just two weeks after Infinity War. That’s a lot of comic book Josh Brolin on our screens in a very short amount of time. An extra week buffer was clearly called for. However, I’d assumed Disney would blink on Solo, push it back to December. Delaying Solo would have freed Fox to push Deadpool 2 back a week to claim Memorial Day for itself. Instead, Disney is sticking to their guns on Solo and moving Infinity War.
- Black Panther’s monster business is showing that a truly monumental comic book movie might need a three-week window, not two, to accrue the majority of its box office. Launching Infinity War a week earlier gives it that three-week cushion now. Beyond that, this move also ensures the entire world gets to see Black Panther in a movie again that much sooner
- This year’s April was already weaker than usual, lacking a Jungle Book or Fast & Furious bonafide blockbuster and stuck to make due with a series of small comedies (Blockers, Overboard, I Feel Pretty), dramas (Chappaquiddick) and horror movies (A Quiet Place, Truth or Dare) as well as an astonishingly cheap-looking Dwayne Johnson movie (Rampage). Granted, one can never fully count out Dwayne Johnson, especially not after Jumanji, but unlike recent years there’s nothing in 2018’s April that might have scared Marvel Studios off a decision like this.
- Beloved characters are probably going to die in this movie and we all have the internet to immediately turn to for reaction. This move toward a genuine worldwide release cuts down on the inherent spoiler potential.
Personally, this is fantastic news for me. I am going to the horror convention Texas Frightmare for the first time this year. Since it falls on the first weekend of May and will involve two separate travel days (one there, another back) I wasn’t sure how or if I was going to see and review Infinity War until after its opening weekend. Now, it’s coming out a week earlier. Beautiful. Problem solved.
Still, the film history nerd in me despairs a little for the largely symbolic meaning of this movie. For the first time in 20 years, the first weekend of May is not going to have a legitimate big new movie vying for our attention. As I wrote about in far more detail elsewhere, the summer movie season used to start over Memorial Day weekend, beginning in 1977 with Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit. Then, a couple of decades later someone came along and asked, “Why are we just ignoring those first weeks of May? So what if kids are still in school then? We’re going to drown their asses in so many ads and cross-promotions they’ll be begging us to see our new movie well before Memorial Day. Begging. Us! [Maniacal laugh].”
Boom! The Mummy makes a record-$48m opening over the first weekend of May in 1999.
Bang! The Mummy Returns tops that with a $68m debut exactly two years later.
Wham-o! Spider-Man scores a stunning $114m over the same frame just a year later.
[The above “booms” and bangs” and “wham-os” have been brought to you my love for old campy Batman TV].
The first weekend of May has been one of the most coveted release windows ever since. That is until Marvel put Winter Soldier in April (thus kneecapping first-week-of-May-release The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Universal put two different Fast & Furious movies in April as well (though, in that case, neither Avengers: Age of Ultron nor Guardians of the Galaxy 2 seemed to suffer too much from Furious 7 and Fate of the Furious’ competition).
Now, with Infinity War’s move we are left with the saddest looking release slate for the first weekend of May in a long, long time:
Hey, Bad Samaritan and Traffik, I know you had been planning to carve out a little bit of business the last week of April, but have you thought about maybe, um, trying the first week of May instead? I hear it’s wide open now.
Infinity War stars just about everyone ever (I hear they even included a Humphrey Bogart hologram cameo ala Last Action Hero) and opens just about everywhere possible between April 25th and April 27th. Here are the unfortunate few who will still have to wait a week longer than everyone else to get it: