Avengers Endgame’s $1.2bn blockbuster opening and the future of the box office
Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe monster has no doubt proved that there is a very profitable future for a particular type of film
If you, like thousands of other South Africans, were finding it hard to get tickets for Avengers: Endgame, the finale to an 11-year journey, 22-film road for a particular moment in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) — then fear not, you were not alone.
The three-hour long, final episode of MCU’s multi-character, multi-billion dollar earning franchise smashed box office records around the globe for its opening weekend. In S A alone, the film earned a record-breaking R34m on its opening weekend and globally it enjoyed a $1.2bn opening.
In an age when it seems as if cinema audiences are drastically shrinking thanks to streaming platforms and peak TV, Disney’s MCU monster has proved that for a particular type of film there is a very profitable future. In China the film made an unprecedented $330m for its opening weekend, setting it on course to challenge the current world record holder, James Cameron’s Avatar, which made $2.7bn globally upon its release a decade ago.
However, while Endgame is certainly making many record inroads and profits for Disney, it needs to be seen in the light of a dedicated and ferociously committed fanboy MCU audience who have helped the series to become a box-office phenomenon over the last decade.
You can judge the paying-power of this audience by their furious, and sometimes violent, response to those idiots who dare try and spoil the films for other viewers by tweeting salient plot-points online. NFL player LeSean McCoy tweeted the ending of Endgame last weekend and was met by calls for his transfer and firing from angry fans around the world. In Hong Kong, a facetious moviegoer who walked out of the film and loudly announced spoilers to awaiting viewers was beaten to within an inch of his life — you may mess with the fictional characters in the films but you don’t mess with real-life MCU fans.
Whereas previous box-office record holders have earned their place by virtue of their stature as cultural milestones, as Atlantic film critic David Sims has pointed out — Avatar for its pioneering of the then new capabilities of 3-D technology, Titanic as a word-of-mouth sensation, Jurassic Park for its early demonstration of the wonders of CGI, Star Wars and Jaws as early evidence of the possibilities of the blockbuster as a new genre, Avengers: Endgame represents something else entirely, “overwhelming audience loyalty to an entire brand, a 22-film series reaching a satisfyingly undeniable conclusion [though there’s still room for plenty more Marvel films in the future].”
What that means for the future of mainstream cinema is still slightly uncertain but you can be assured that it won’t mean an increase in original product. Disney will be banking hard on the 2019 Star Wars instalment, Warner Brothers is putting everything it has behind its next DC comics outing The Joker and Universal studios are hoping that their Fast & Furious spinoff Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw will deliver them a huge payload in August.
While the streaming world may be the only vestige left for filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese (Netflix) and Steven Spielberg (Apple), the cinematic multi-plex world seems firmly in the hands of Disney and the blockbuster comics franchise whose 11-year long creation has handsomely paid off dividends.