Apr 3 2014, 10:41pm CDT | by Forbes
Back in June, Steven Spielberg predicted that the film industry will “implode” when a bunch of high-priced blockbusters flop at the box office. He told the crowd at USC that such an implosion would forever change the movie industry. It looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer for Spielberg’s prediction to come true though. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the latest giant action comic-book film from Disney, is poised to be another giant Marvel hit.
Exhibitor Relations expects the film will earn $92 million this weekend. (It has already earned $75.2 million overseas, according to Box Office Mojo.) Those numbers would quickly give Captain America the biggest opening of the year. Last year Marvel’s sequel to Thor opened to $85 million and went on to earn $645 million. Captain America could do even better.
So the suits in the executive offices at Disney headquarters can breath a sigh of relief and relax for a little while as the Marvel money train rides on. Thanks to huge films like The Avengers, the three Iron Man movies and now Captain America, Disney’s $4 billion purchase of Marvel back in 2009 looks like pure genius.
But one has to wonder, how long can this winning streak go on for? As my colleague Scott Mendelson put it in a recent post:
Disney will always have its Disney and Pixar animated films, and they aren’t remotely “in trouble” and arguably won’t be for many moons. But over four years after purchasing Marvel and 17 months after purchasing Lucasfilm, Disney is in a position where they are relatively dependent on the Marvel Studios and (eventually) the Lucasfilm output for specific demographics. Their failed attempts to craft new boy-friendly franchises like The Lone Ranger or Prince of Persia sting less because they have a Star Wars and an Avengers just around the corner.
At some point, are audiences going to get sick of Marvel movies? Or is the studio going to run out of viable superheroes to build movies around? null
A Captain America sequel was a pretty safe bet and just to hedge it a bit, the filmmakers included Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel l. Jackson) making The Winter Soldier almost an Avenger 1.5. The movie smartly plays off of the events in The Avengers (which was the third highest-grossing movie of all time with $1.5 billion) and, according to studio head Kevin Feige, sets things up for the next Avengers movie, The Age of Ultron. It doesn’t hurt that the film is getting good reviews. It scores an 88 out of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes.
The studio is taking bigger risks with two of the next group of Marvel films on tap: Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man. Based on less popular characters, these two films are not spun directly from the money-making silk strands of The Avengers. Audience members who aren’t hard-core Marvel comic book fans will need to be introduced to the new characters and convinced to go see the movies.
The Marvel stamp of approval goes a long way but it will be interesting to see just how far it reaches. If those two movies flop, we might be further down the road to Spielberg’s imagined future than we know. But for now, at Disney at least, the money keeps rolling in.
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