Marvel Entertainment smashing movie records

Marvel Entertainment smashing movie records, by Greg Tingle - 15th May 2011

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Movie fans and insiders... did you know that first weekend in May is when Hollywood’s big money time commences. After months of pretty average flicks at the box office, studios start dreaming of $100 million dollar weekend paydays from May through to August. Marvel Entertainment based on the foundations of Marvel Comics has smashed it's way in this movie season headed up by legendary Thor.

This year’s Marvel entry is Thor, starring relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth, a likable Aussie actor, and Oscar-winner Natalie Portman. Experts tip Marvel Entertainment may be in for its biggest film season ever.

In 6 of the past 9 years, Marvel Studios has kicked off the box office money making season with a comic book blockbuster. Here's the proof movie fans and insiders...

Year Film Opening Weekend

2002 “Spider-Man” $114 million

2003 “X2: X-Men United” $85 million

2007 “Spider-Man 3? $151 million

2008 “Iron Man” $98 million

2009 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” $85 million

2010 “Iron Man 2? $128 million

When other studios attempt to take that first weekend in May slot, they don’t do nearly as well. “Van Helsing” (2004, $51 mill), “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005, $19 mill), and “Mission Impossible III” (2006, $47 mill) all sluggish compared to the opening weekends of the Marvel comics franchise.

Marvel’s comic books usually come with built-in name recognition and an established audience of fanboys lining up to see them. Marvel has so many comic book entities that it can cement its future re the first weekend of May for years in advance. For example, “Iron Man 3? is already slated for release on May 3 of 2013, even though the script isn’t even done yet. That's planning for you.

With a budget of roughly $150 mil, and Marvel’s history of May movies making close to $100 million their opening weekends, you’d think expectations would be massive for “Thor.” But “Thor’s” box office prospects aren’t up to typical comic book standards.

“Its not one of the better known comic-book properties,” says Box Office Guru's Gitesh Pandya. "I don’t think it will come close to the Spider-man or Iron Man numbers. If it gets to $70 million or even the high $60 millions, it would be a very good opening."

“Thor’s” primary audience is the typical comic book/action crowd of young males. But Pandya thinks “Thor” may be able to lure in the ladies also. Co-star Natalie Portman is a hot property coming off her Oscar for “Black Swan.” “And they made sure to let everyone know that Chris Hemsworth takes his shirt off in some scenes,” says Pandya. “That’s got to help with the ladies.”

“Thor” has gotten almost all good reviews, though the comic book/action crowd tends to largely ignore reviews when deciding where to spend their movie money.

Working against “Thor” is a high amount of competition. This year, “Fast Five” reved along by opening to surprisingly strong business ($86 million). Analysts expect “Fast Five” to make around another $35 million in the next week or two. Most of those dollars will likely come from punters who would otherwise be buying tickets to “Thor.”

“Thor’s” other problem is its setting and tone, geared for a pretty smart audience. The story and the characters feel like something out of Shakespeare, which may be why Kenneth Branagh was chosen to direct the film. Much of the film takes place off Earth, on planets of gods and giants. “It’s a different kind of superhero film,” says Pandya. “It’s more cerebral than Iron Man, Hulk, or X-men. I wonder if teenaged kids will get all the mythological references here.”

So, can this $150 million film with an equally large marketing budget make money if it only makes $65 – $70 million in ticket sales its opening weekend? Pandya says not to worry. "Thor is a more European character. He’s better known there than he is here. Lots of comic book movies skew so American that they don’t play well overseas. “Thor” should be the opposite."

That could well be the reason Paramount Pictures decided to open “Thor” overseas before its American debut. It launched in many markets first, such as Australia, and has already made more than $125 million internationally.

And, for Marvel, “Thor” is just one weapon in its arsenal. After “Thor’s” credits finish rolling, there is a bonus scene designed to help set the stage for Marvel’s most ambitious movie project yet… “The Avengers”...a movie featuring Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, and other comic book heroes. “The Avengers” film will be also released in 2012. It debuts the first weekend of May.

In addition to films, Marvel also has plans for slot games, action figures, lunch boxes, t-shirts and a whole host of other Marvel super hero gear.

A Media Man insider said "The Marvel Entertainment movies are just the tip of the iceberg. There's the slot games, video games, shirts, DVDs, action figures and a whole lot more. Investors and fans should be very happy with what's in store this season".

As Marvel Entertainment icon Stan Lee would say, Excelsior!


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