Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From Spider Man to Avengers: How The Movie Game Has Changed

Last weekend, I finally saw Avengers, the movie I've wanted to see the most since Inception two years ago (for the record, I'm equally hyped for Dark Knight Rises). Saying I enjoyed it would be an understatement. I loved every bit of it!

It's proof that comic book guys need to be involved with comic book movies and Joss Whedon, the master behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Firefly, created a movie that had genuine emotion, great characters, insane action and somehow made The Hulk intriguing. After two so-so movies, folks realized the best way to make The Hulk work for a movie is to make him look good in a team.

Was it the greatest superhero movie ever? No. But will it be one of the best? Absolutely. It lived up to the hype and in 2 weeks, it's already made history with Barry Bonds numbers at the box office.

- Highest debut 3-day weekend gross ($207 million)
- Highest 2nd weekend gross ($103 million to Avatar's $75 mil)
- Fastest movie to make $300 and $350 million
- $1 billion worldwide in 19 days (only Avatar was faster)
- Somehow made Disney recover from that flop of a movie called "John Carter". How do they keep winning? Being smart, that's how.

That 2nd weekend total is almost as much as Spider-Man made 10 years ago - the movie that forever changed the box office and movie game.

May 3, 2002.  I remember my best friend and I being excited to see it but at the time, the only superhero movies in recent years that succeeded were Blade and X-Men. I was a fan of the Spider-Man cartoon on FOX Kids back in the day and I figured why not watch Peter Parker go at it.

Little did I know the excitement for that movie would carry it to unbelievable heights. $115 million made in that first weekend. I had been reading box office numbers throughout high school and I remember in 2001 being blown away that Rush Hour 2 and The Mummy Returns made close to $70 mil in their opening weekends. A non-sequel movie making $100 mil in 3 days?? That was unheard of.

I still remember the Time Magazine at my doctor's office with the cover "The Spider-Man Rules" - it was a new era for blockbusters and suddenly the mythical $100M weekend barrier was a reality. The game changed and now it wasn't about how much you grossed longterm, but how fast you could get to $100M.

Eventually movies would be released on Wednesdays to capitalize on public frenzy. You wouldn't just see 3-day totals but 5-day totals. Thats when records would be breaking like crazy like the movie industry was on steroids. Take 2004 for instance - Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2, Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban and Passion of the Christ all had $100M+ over a 5-day opening weekend.

I bet honestly that Spider-Man's success led to the growth of sequels being in demand. Now that movie studios realized opening weekends would be golden, rush out the sequels and capitalize on folks making history.  Need proof?

- Of the 21 movies that opened with $100+ million weekends (in 3 days, not 5), all but 3 of them aren't sequels (Spider-Man, Hunger Games and Avengers). If you expand that list of greatest openings, you have to go all the way to No. 34 - Passion of the Christ - to find another non-sequel.

It's a possible theory. The film industry is losing major coin so why not bank on proven entities (sequels) instead of pray for a new movie to strike gold. Another product of the Spider-Man Rules, I think.

The game has changed to the point where movies make more in one day than some films do all weekend or during the whole run. The last Harry Potter movie made $91 million in one day. More than the Avengers' best day ($80.8 million). More than only 26 movies grossed in their weekend. 

If you look at the highest grossing movie weekends now? Of the top 15, all but two has been released since 2007. We're going to keep seeing movies cross $100 million in 3 days like guys used to hit 40-50 home runs in the late 90's-mid 00's. Shoot, I didn't even know the last Indiana Jones flick crossed $100 million.

I know what you're thinking. What about Avatar? It "only grossed" $77 million in 3-days ($137 million in 5 days) then followed that up with 75.6 the second weekend ($146.5 million total - they actually INCREASED money over the 2nd weekend). Course it held steady and shattered nearly every record on the way to being the highest grossing film of all-time. Ridiculous.

And just to show you I'm not biased to 5-day records, the Dark Knight was technically the first $200M movie. But like baseball records with steroids, I kinda give it an asterisk. Nevertheless, I remember the craziness and excitement of that weekend. After all the hype and the sad death of Heath Ledger, it made $238.6 million. Harry Potter's last film made $226 million over its first 5 days. But still I figured $200 million over 3 days wasn't possible, even with rising ticket prices. Boy, was I wrong.

Now you have two movies this year that could smash box office records. The Avengers is on record-breaking watch and when Dark Knight Rises comes out on July 20, it might shatter those fresh records. It's amazing how things have changed in 10 years. Attribute it to higher ticket prices, greater demand for sequels or whatever but what Spider-Man started, Avengers has taken to a whole another level.

(Final tidbit - Spider-Man still has the 13th highest weekend of all time. The Babe Ruth/Josh Gibson of this game is still looming large to remind people who originated this new big money era.)

I'm just glad to be a part of both sides of history. And I'll look forward to sharing my thoughts on Dark Knight Rises in two months. The Avengers was incredibly good and it continues the trend of making great action movies with solid acting/storytelling. We know what we're getting from Christopher Nolan so just sit back and enjoy this new frontier we keep embarking on, one blockbuster at a time.


  1. I'm not much for box office hits always, but it doesn't feel that long ago when the 3rd Spiderman film (released in 2007) debuted. As much as I like Spiderman, to me I feel that The Amazing Spiderman is a close call for another reboot already. I know it will be good and will hopefully live up to the fanboys dream.

    Speaking of The Avengers... I wonder what DC Comics is up to on the production of a Justice League film. Don't get me wrong, I love the JLA characters (more than Avengers) but the production on this film has been shifted back and forth. Since the writer's strike a few years ago, the timing for the film was unsettled, which pushed the film back even more. All I'm saying is, if they were to make a JLA film, they shouldn't do it within the next 2,3 years considering they would look like imitators to The Avengers. If the JLA film does come into effect, I think waiting it out and giving it a different tone (dark and realism) would be best.

  2. It really doesn't. I wasn't excited to see the new Spiderman cause that was my HS/college years when it came out so it's very fresh to me. The idea behind it does look pretty creative talking about the parents but it does feel way too soon. Yet knowing me, I'll probably be curious to watch.

    Somebody else asked me if they should rush Justice League. Man DC Comics hasn't made too many great non Superman/Batman movies and I worry if the characters just aren't as compelling as Marvel's (which isn't true but I wonder if marketing wise, it's true. I heard Chris Nolan co-wrote the script for the new Superman film so that could be as promising. Yet it'd look like copycatting to the most which sucks cause I think it could be incredible.