Box Office Film News

Box Office: Captain Marvel Topples One More “Yeah, But”

It’s the “yeah, but” you have to defeat.

For every box office victory gained by those who would argue increased diversity leads to both more profitable and more interesting movies, there’s a “yeah, but” counterargument.

Wonder Woman exceeds all expectations and ends up with a staggering $821m worldwide!“ we’ll say. “This proves female-led superhero movies can play anywhere in the world.”

“Yeah, but,” someone else interjects. “Wonder Woman actually made more domestically than internationally. That NEVER happens with comic book movies or blockbusters in general. WW’s domestic/international split was 51%/49% when it’s usually closer to 40%/60%, 30%/70% in some cases. Yes, WW is an undeniable hit, but I wouldn’t go as far as ‘proves female-led superhero movies can play anywhere.’ Some corners of the world are still crazy sexist, even more so than the U.S.”

The same back-and-forth happened last year when the once-in-a-generation box office phenomenon of Black Panther ended with a 52% vs. 48% domestic/international split. “Proves black-led films travel,” to some. “Yeah, but why did it defy blockbuster norms and do better at home than overseas?” to others.

Disney distribution chief Cathleen Taff said, “People crave representation.” The box office spells that out. However, do the numbers dispel the old “female-led/black-led films don’t travel” myth as much as we want to believe.

Maybe both films wildly overperformed domestically and performed more to average or slightly above average for major comic book movies everywhere else. Either way, there’s enough for the naysayers to write them off as anomalies which proved there’s money to be made in diversity but maybe of it at home than elsewhere.

That’s why Captain Marvel scoring the sixth-biggest global opening ($455m) of all time is such a big deal. It’s a Marvel movie doing the Marvel movie thing at the box office, which means, basically, it’s printing cash. However, it’s doing so at an uncommonly fast rate, even by Marvel standards. It’s overseas launch of $302m – or 66% of its global total – trails only The Fate of the Furious ($443.2 million), Avengers: Infinity War ($382.8 million), Jurassic World($316.7 million) and the final Harry Potter pic ($314 million) in the record books.

Some “yeah, but” objections still apply:

Yeah, but it’s not every female-led blockbuster that gets to follow a box office behemoth like Avengers: Infinity War, which was just the third film ever to eclipse $2 billion worldwide. Basically, everyone who wants to know how the Avengers defeat Thanos in Endgame has to see Captain Marvel. Try replicating that kind of lead-in.

Or…

Yeah, but we’re only talking about three days worth of box office totals. Let’s wait to see how everything shakes out in the end. Captain Marvel could revert to the Wonder Woman/Black Panther normal of a 50/50 domestic/international split or it might truly perform more like a standard blockbuster. We need a little more time to predict which way it will go.

But it feels like we’re getting into the box office weeds now.

Big picture it: The film industry is a copycat business manned by a bunch of clueless MBAs who produce by spreadsheet formulas instead of the filmmaking instincts they don’t actually possess. Once a proof-of-concept hit like Wonder Woman comes along, they can all claim to be pleasantly surprised, but still a tad skeptical. It takes the next movie to replicate that success to really challenge the most risk-averse holdouts to admit maybe long-held myths about box office success are wrong.

As new Imax president Megan Colligan told THR:

 “I think we tend to perpetuate myths that are simply untrue, such as that men won’t watch a female-led superhero movie, or that African-American superhero movies won’t play overseas. Over and over again, we see that those myths are just stories that we tell ourselves to make the same type of movies in the same way. The studios who have said no to those myths and have pushed to defy them have been wildly successful.”

To give credit where credit is due, even just a cursory glance at the last 12 months of movies shows an abnormally high number of female and black-led comedies and dramas. Clearly, Hollywood got the “diversity is good for business” memo. However, to get such a movie made at the blockbuster level you need success stories to point to.

Alita: Battle Angel, a big budget spectacle with a female lead, isn’t quite that, not with its “good enough to turn a profit, but not enough to warrant a sequel” box office. Same goes for A Wrinkle in Time, the biggest budget film ever directed by a black woman but also one of Disney’s rare financial misses.

Captain Marvel, however, is already a financial success story. “This continues the momentum started by Wonder Woman,” says Wall Street analyst Erik Handler of MKM Partners. “Female-led movies have been gaining traction for several years, but these two films, along with Black Panther, show that a superhero doesn’t have to be a white male in order to support a massive budget.”

And if these early Captain Marvel returns are any indication they can be just as top-heavy with money from foreign ticket sales as any other blockbuster. Considering how much Hollywood prioritizes that kind of business, in part because the studios get a bigger cut of foreign ticket sales than domestic, that’s another important “yeah, but” to topple.

Source: THR

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11 comments

  1. It’s good news – especially since I really want a Captain Marvel sequel. I am sure that some will claim it being a failure if it doesn’t do a billion like Black Panther did, but that is naturally BS. I predicted 800 plus before the movie was released and I am very confident that it will hit the mark. Everything more is a bonus.

      1. Plus, there’s the possibility that the next movie will still be a prequel of some kind. Cap ends her movie promising to put a boot in the Supreme Intelligence’s non-existence arse, but when we see her with The Avengers in the post-credits has that already happened yet? Or is still in her future? How much time has actually passed for her?

        Beyond that, will it stay as simple as good Skrulls vs. evil Kree? Talos mentioned there were Skrull settlements sprinkled throughout the galaxy. Not all of them are going to be led by someone as honorable as him, and an alien race that can shapeshift offers so many villainous opportunities. That’s why the comics have done so much more with them than we see in Captain Marvel.

      2. Yeah, I considered that possibility too. I feel like the time spent since the 90’s might have to end up taking place in flashbacks again though (with little progress having been made in the war) so they can get back to the present day immediately, especially since they’ll surely want to be making plans for her to be involved in the buildup to whatever the next mega event will be 10 years from now.

      3. I hope the next movie is set between this one and GotG and shows Carol in the thick of the Kree/Scrull war. And I usually HATE prequels.

      4. I’m with you on wanting to see a Kree/Skrull war movie, but if Carol is meant to be the new leader of the Avengers post-Cap/Iron Man it would feel weird for her solo movies to continue to be prequels while her team-up movies are set in the present. WW is kind of doing the same, but she has the benefit of WB no longer giving a crap about the Justice League thus freeing her to keep doing her own thing.

        I’m not against the next Cap movie again being a prequel. For example, if it is set in space instead of Earth it probably won’t even feel like a prequel, sort of like how figuring out when exactly the GotG movies take place in relation to the other MCU movies is sometimes harder than you’d guess. But it just seems a needless curve ball to throw into the MCU timeline.

        All of this, of course, presumes Cap and Iron Man are no more – in some way after Endgame – and that team-up movies, either called Avengers, New Avengers, or something else, will continue to be a thing. Both assumptions could be entirely wrong.

    1. “I am sure that some will claim it being a failure if it doesn’t do a billion like Black Panther did, but that is naturally BS.”

      There is a scoreboard nature to box office analysis these days that just wildly oversimplifies everything. Sadly, the “yeah, but” it didn’t make as much as Black Panther will happen, but making as much if not a little more than WW is all it really needs to do to prove something. WW=proof-of-concept. CP=replicated success. After that, any excuses shouldn’t matter.

  2. I’ve got to admit that I don’t get the concern with US domestic sales. I know that the bean counters won’t want a sequel unless a film does sufficiently in the domestic sales.

    Although popular culture is extremely USA-centric, less than 5% of the entire world’s population is in the USA. (http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/) There would be a higher percentage if asking what fraction of the developed world is in the USA.

    If non-USA consumers are willing to pay a huge amount of money that makes a product successful,it’s still money.

    1. “If non-USA consumers are willing to pay a huge amount of money that makes a product successful, it’s still money.”

      That’s exactly the point in this case. Most major movies now earn the majority of their money overseas. However, since WW and Black Panther ended up with 50/50 splits there were those who argued it meant films with black or female-leads struggle to travel. Captain Marvel performing more like a Fast and the Furious movie with a much bigger international total than domestic takes that argument away, for a little bit at least.

      Pulling back a bit, the reason people focus so much on domestic box office is partially that’s just what we’ve always done – domestic is the yardstick we’ve used to measure financial success. Also, historically speaking, international numbers used to be a lot harder to come by and didn’t mean as much to us. Since so many older movies were financed using foreign pre-sales – where the producer or studio gets the money for the budget by selling distribution rights to foreign companies before the movie has even been made – figuring out the significance of international box office was way more confusing. Plus, as the US outpaced the rest of the world there simply wasn’t as much money to made in foreign theaters, and domestic offers far fewer variables to work out. With international, you also have to consider currently fluctuations and the differing profit split arrangements from country to country (50/50 for studios and theaters in US, 60/40 international, 25/75 in China).

      Obviously, times have changed. The international box office is now more significant than domestic to all blockbusters. Still, the #1 and #2 biggest markets for any one movie are almost always US and China. So, you can rarely get away with outright, completely, almost hilariously bombing in the US but not everywhere else. Thus the continued focus on domestic.

      We also forget this, but we are largely talking about a US industry. Even as the studios are controlled by international conglomerates, seek co-financing deals with China, and film in Canada, Hollywood is still based in the U.S. That plays a role in how we view box office, just as whenever there’s a French movie or Chinese movie or Russian movie there’s an increased interest in seeing how well they play at home.

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