Sunday, July 19, 2015

Not a Bad Opening: Don't Fret About 'Ant-Man'

Ant-Man scored an estimated $58 million this weekend...

Analysts and many others are noting that is the second smallest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe opening weekend grosses. 2008's The Incredible Hulk is the lowest with $55 million, but adjusted it's $62 million, so Ant-Man's opening was definitely the smallest in terms of attendance... But I think the fact that it made that much is definitely no cause for alarm...

For starters, Ant-Man is the least expensive of the MCU films. Costing $130 million, it's just a few clicks below the earlier MCU films. Iron Man cost $140 million back in 2008 before post-conversion 3D was mainstream, Captain America: The First Avenger cost the same amount. After The Avengers, the costs went up. $170 million was the minimum since then, but Marvel and Disney were smart when budgeting Ant-Man. You see, they could've gotten cocky based on their previous successes, but they didn't. No $200 million budget, they poured a rather conservative amount into the picture. Now if only Disney's live-action unit didn't have that attitude in the past, for The Lone Ranger and Tomorrowland could've cost $100 million each, and could've broken even.

Only one other non-sequel MCU film was released during Marvel's Phase 2, and that was Guardians of the Galaxy. Now that film opened with a stellar $94 million last summer, but I think that happened because it was a film that you just had to see whether you were onboard the MCU Express or not. It wasn't just another Marvel movie, it wasn't just another superhero film, it was set in space, it had a talking raccoon and a talking tree, it had such colorful visuals, it had 'Hooked on a Feeling', big laughs, it was a big "team" movie like The Avengers... The teaser alone I think sold that film. They probably didn't even need to make Trailer #1 and #2.

Ant-Man's teaser on the other hand was kind of dull. Not that it was bad, it was just serviceable. Introducing Scott Lang, establishing who he is, showing the Ant-Man suit's basic function, the teaser just didn't have the pizazz that Guardians' teaser had. Ant-Man looked like yet another superhero movie, a typical origin story, "another Marvel movie". The film's full trailer showed some thrills (Ant-Man running up the gun is a great shot!) and some of the movie's quirkier elements, but having seen the film, I think the marketing didn't even give you an idea of what kind of absolute madness the film would be. Good thing too, they didn't spoil the good stuff. I don't like seeing tons of stuff in trailers, but audiences seem to want specific things. What the teaser and trailer showed wasn't enough to guarantee an opening weekend gross of over, say, $65 million. Still, a lot of people went. Looked good, was Marvel, it's going to be fine...

We have to remember that, with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, the previous solo movies opened with good but not massive grosses. Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, both released in 2011, each opened with $65 million. However, those came out before The Avengers rocketed the series to where it's at now, popularity-wise. Guardians of the Galaxy, regardless of whether the comics were well-known by a ton of people or not, opened so big because it just looked incredible, the space-set epic didn't look like yet another superhero movie. Ant-Man did, so the opening weekend gross makes sense.

It's not bad for a movie that didn't look like an event, I'd say.

Plus, the film seems to have gotten very strong audience reception. My crowd liked it a great deal, it has a strong A CinemaScore grade, some are calling it the most family-friendly installment of the MCU films so that could help as well. Since it wasn't so front loaded, maybe it'll have stronger legs than the usual superhero film. Most superhero films have roughly 2.5-2.8x multipliers. Here are the MCU entries' multipliers, for starters...

Guardians of the Galaxy - 3.54x
Iron Man - 3.24x
The Avengers - 3.00x
Thor - 2.78x
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 2.72x
Captain America: The First Avenger - 2.70x
The Incredible Hulk - 2.43x
Thor: The Dark World - 2.42x
Avengers: Age of Ultron - 2.38x (so far)
Iron Man 3 - 2.35x

Fox/Marvel (post-Origins: Wolverine)...

X-Men: First Class - 2.65x
X-Men: Days of Future Past - 2.58x
The Wolverine - 2.49x

DC (2008 and onwards)...

The Dark Knight - 3.37x
The Dark Knight Rises - 2.80x
Man of Steel - 2.50x
Green Lantern - 2.18x
Watchmen - 1.94x

I'm confident that Ant-Man's legs will be much closer to Iron Man's legs. Let's say it pulls a 2.9x multiplier, it finishes up with $168 million domestically. Not awful, could be better, but still fine. With Iron Man legs, roughly $185 million. Guardians legs? $203 million. It won't be a super-mega-blockbuster, but why are we fretting? These are very good totals for a movie about a guy who shrinks down to the size of an ant, and fights an equally tiny guy on the main character's daughter's Thomas the Tank Engine train set!

Sure, it's not as good as the other MCU grosses, but who gives a damn, really? The post-Avengers release Thor: The Dark World opened big but had meh legs, the domestic total for that movie is an okay $206 million. The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't dwindling. Ant-Man just happened to not look like a "definitely must-see" kind of event. Since it opened a bit lower, I can see it scoring over the weeks, and it'll surprise in a few ways.

As for future Marvel "introduction" films... Doctor Strange is the next one, but I can see that taking off. Not Guardians big per se, but significantly bigger than Ant-Man. Why's that? From everything we're hearing, Doctor Strange sounds unlike anything Marvel has made before. Simple, it's the first "magic" Marvel movie. Just like Iron Man introducing the MCU and being a smash hit, just like The Avengers being a rare "heroes from other movies team up" event, just like Guardians of the Galaxy being a wonderfully bizarro space opera, Doctor Strange promises a Matrix-esque mind trip movie with magic and all kinds of cool things. I think it'll definitely cruise past $65 million on opening weekend in the autumn of next year. It's arguably fresh and new...

Again, you have to have a little more pizazz, even if you are an entry in a big franchise like Marvel Cinematic Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy had a lot of it, Ant-Man did not, but the film still opened very well and is a #1 hit. Not an underperformer. Let's not squash the ant...


  1. What are your thoughts on 2 Chinese films dominating global box office? And one of them is an animated movie? Monkey King: Hero is Back is getting tons and tons of critical acclaims and many say this is a signal for a Chinese animation golden age. What do you think?

    1. I think it could help start a trend where American studios team up with Chinese studios (similar to Illumination and French studio MacGuff, Paramount and the Spanish studio that made 'Tadeo Jones') to produce smaller-scale films, which is what DreamWorks is currently doing. The success of this and whatever Oriental DreamWorks finishes in 2018 could start a golden age for their animation industry. I think it's very possible.