This weekend saw the release of The Avengers, the culmination of Marvel Studios’s long plan to launch several individual superhero franchises and them have them interconnect into one team-up film. It was obviously a risky plan, but one that paid ff as box office estimates are putting the film’s ticketsales at somewhere around $205 million this morning, a new record. Last night FilmBuffOnline editors Rich Drees and William Gatevackes sat down and discussed that achievement, what we know of Marvel’s future plans and what the studio might be planning to set up the villain revealed at the end of The Avengers for the inevitable sequel.
Rich Drees – So how many times have you seen The Avengers already?
William Gatevackes – Three. You?
RD – Same here… So we’re on an even footing. So did you ever think it was going to do $200 million on opening weekend?
WG – I thought it had a chance, especially after hearing how well it did overseas. I don’t know if I’d say $200 mil exactly, but I thought it had a chance to do better than Harry Potter.
RD – As we got closer to the release, I knew it was going to be big, but I have to admit to some surprise that it went this big. It’s been kind of interesting watching The Avengers‘ detractors sputter and make excuses all weekend as the film’s estimated box office continues to be adjusted upward. And by interesting, I mean, hilarious. So where does Marvel go from here?
WG – That’s a loaded question. Have a few hours? Okay, knee jerk instinctive response: get a Hulk and Black Widow film up and running. Pronto. Hold Whedon captive and make him write and direct both.
RD – Well, we know that next year is Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and 2014 is Captain America 2 and a mystery movie they have yet to announce. I would think that the 2nd film in 2014 would be the one needed to start setting up Avengers 2 for 2015.
WG – That’s weird because the Kevin Feige interview I reported on made it sound like two films out of Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Runaways, and Inhumans were pretty far along in development. Why develop them if there is only one spot available?
Either way, if there is one, they should develop Hulk. He is the character that has the best chance of starting a lasting franchise, and the concept got a BIG shot in the arm after this film. All the talk I’ve heard on Facebook and outside theaters is that people never thought the Hulk could be as good as he was in The Avengers. How can you let that slide?
RD – Well, there’s a couple of possibilities they have so many films in development. First I would suspect that they want to keep their options open. Second, they might have been waiting to see how Avengers did before announcing more than two films a year.
WG – Yeah, that was going to be my next question – Who says they can only have two films a year?
RD – I think the only limit to the number of films is going to be determined by the audience. Is three Marvel films a year one too many? Personally, I think not, but only if one of them is something that isn’t necessarily straightforward superheroics. Something like Runaways.
WG – I don’t think so. Don’t forget, there technically was three Marvel films in 2011–Thor, Captain America and X-Men First Class. And I agree with you on Runaways. But if Marvel is going to do 3 or more, per year do them as fast a making a quality film will allow. I suspect, barring a MAJOR second weekend drop, that the Avengers grosses will give them a lot of momentum.
RD – True, but in terms for what Marvel Studios is able to do on their own, will three films be too much for them?
WG – If they were an indie film unit, maybe. For all intents and purposes, they are a Disney arm that has experience in having a number of films in the works at the same time–and have them all tie in together. If they can do that on a two-film slate per year, I’m pretty sure they can handle three.
RD – Fair enough. Plus, they will need to start expanding their franchises. Which one of the things we know are in development are best suited to getting them to Avengers 2. I know that I really want to see what Edgar Wright has in store for Ant-Man, but I don’t see how that would feed into who it appears will be the villain.
WG – Well Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inhumans have the best chance of featuring on building up the big bad guy in time for Avengers 2, since both have featured comic book storylines set in space. However, I believe the bad guy in question–or at least his minions, will appear in Thor 2 first.
RD – Well, we’ve already seen a certain bejeweled piece of wardrobe of his in Odin’s treasure room in the first Thor film.
WG – And, trying not to get to spoilery, there is a scene in The Avengers where Loki is warned that if he does not deliver the Tesseract to the big bad guy revealed in the button scene, they would be coming after him–and it. Or it–and him, him being Loki.
RD – So does that make Thor 2 an ersatz Avengers sequel or should it have its own main story and these plotlines only get briefly touched upon as set up for Avengers 2?
WG – Well, technically, if you look at it, THE AVENGERS was an ersatz sequel to every Marvel movie to date, especially Thor. I think Thor 2 can be both. But that scene was so prominent it had to be setting something up.
RD – True, and it should be interesting to see where they decide to pay that off. So I guess this leads us to the idea of “franchise management.” This has really been an amazing feat that Marvel and studio chief Kevin Feige have pulled off.
WG – He made it look easy. And it was incredibly, incredibly hard. Look how hard it is for DC to get anything up and running. Let alone create a cohesive universe.
RD – I think the corporate dynamics at Warners is partly the reason why DC is having a hard time building a cinematic franchise the way Marvel has. But the reasons there could be a whole other conversation for another day.
WG – Yeah, let’s stay with Marvel. I only wanted to take a cheap pot shot at Warners/DC anyway.
RD – Ha!
WG – But the secret was the fact that the Powers That Be decided to take a hands on approach way back when the first Blade came out. If they didn’t work to make that a great comic book film that was both a good film and true enough to the comics to appease the fans, we wouldn’t be talking about The Avengers today.
RD – So true. OK, prediction time – I know we don’t normally talk about box office all that much, but where do you see Avengers finally topping out at both domestically and internationally/total.
WG – Wow. Okay. It’s almost at $700 million internationally already. So, $1-$1.2 Billion doesn’t seem outlandish. Domestically? $600 million, I think, would be a safe bet–although it could go higher. Your prediction?
RD – I’m thinking that domestically it’ll at least hit $500 million. I doubt that it will have a great drop off next weekend, when Dark Shadows opens. I think its first real competition is Battleship on the 18th. Even then, it will still be in the Top 5 through the end of the month. With international added in, I’m going to guess a bit higher and say 1.3 to 1.4 billion.
WG – Sound fair.
RD – Second prediction – Can Iron Man 3 do this kind of business?
WG – I definitely think there will be some kind of uptick, but a $200 million weekend? Probably not. Granted, a lot would depend on the premise and the reviews it gets, but The Avengers was the culmination of years of Marvel films and had a whole gaggle of heroes to draw people in. IM 3 won’t have that.
RD – Well, I agree that it won’t make Avengers money, but it will definitely do better than most third franchise installments. I think it is hard to apply the usual predictive models to things here because no one has ever done something like this before.
WG – True. It almost feels like Marvel is starting over again. You get the sense that they almost have to prove that they can do it all over bigger and better in terms of both quality and business.
RD – Of course, no matter how good it does, there will be some who declare it a bomb because it doesn’t match The Avengers‘ numbers.
WG – Exactly. Which is an unrealistic expectation.
RD – True, but there are those who get a burr under the saddle about certain types of films. I’ll bet you the same folks who will bag on Iron Man 3‘s box office not being up to The Avengers‘ will be the same ones who are currently trying to downplay the box office records shattered this past weekend.
WG – Yep. I believe the term the kids use is “Haters be hatin.’”
RD – True dat. Finally, what is one thing that you thought might not have worked so well that Marvel can learn from going into this second phase of movies?
WG – Oh, boy. Let me think. Well, with the success they had, it’s hard to criticize what didn’t work, because it worked well enough. If I had to pick something, maybe pay attention to symmetry in casting and choosing a director or director. Mark Ruffalo was up for Bruce Banner for The Incredible Hulk, yet somehow he couldn’t do it and Edward Norton stepped in. Their instincts were right, because Ruffalo was the best Banner since Bill Bixby. The films up to this point needed to have a tight schedule, but they should have followed their instincts the first time around. If that makes any sense.
RD – It does. I would suggest not rushing anything. I think Iron Man 2 is a bit weak because they reportedly went in with a script that wasn’t ready and tried to work out some problems as they were shooting and I think it shows around the edges. Of course, when Marvel first announced their plans to do a bunch of different films that would feed into an Avengers film, it was originally scheduled for last summer, not this one, so I guess they may have already learned that lesson.
WG – True.
RD – Final thoughts?
WG – Well, there’s a cliche that goes something like “we’re closing a chapter on this,” but I definitely think it applies here. The Avengers is the end of the first act of Marvel’s success at the box office. There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead and a lot of expectations to live up to. It will be interesting to see how the second chapter plays out.
RD – Definitely. I know that I’ve said it before, but Marvel has very much redefined the rules on how to run a film franchise and while it will be interesting to see what they have in store next, it will also be interesting to see who else picks up on how they have done things and where they run with it.