Summer time is a time of beach trips, sleeping late, and big name blockbuster films. Whether it was Jason Bourne, Batman, or an Alien invasion, summer is the time for the epic popcorn flicks. But what if the average filmgoer didn’t have to wait for summer? What if we could watch Iron Man take down Mandarin in December? Why is it so difficult to imagine Spider Man fighting Doc Octopus on Easter Sunday? Is it too crazy to think we can warm up our winter with a Scarlett Johansen Black Widow flick?
Big franchise films seem to be the bread and butter for the box office these days. And this is very apparent in the newfound rivalry between Marvel and DC comics. Superhero films were once a summer game. It was relatively unheard of to see a release earlier then May. Up until 2010 Paramount was distributing all of Marvel’s films, until they no longer needed the nosiness because of other emerging titles (Transformers, Mission Impossible, etc.). Now Disney is the distributor of its properties. And they look to not only capitalize this new trend in super hero franchise success, but they are also looking to change it up.
It has long been accepted that the blockbuster belonged to summer. But studios such as Marvel and Universal have recently found success releasing certain films outside of the traditional May-July window. In the last year, Marvel Studios has seen two of their properties break box office records in what would typically be considered off months for theaters. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy both broke the opening record for their respective release months. Captain America opened to the tune of $95 million and Guardians brought in $94 million The previous record holder for an August release was 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum at $69.3 million.
The success of films of this caliber at seemingly any time of year could mark a new strategy for all of the major studios, not just Marvel. Universal raked in healthy box office receipts with the April 2013 release of Fast Five and Warner Bros. has had their own success with Gravity in October of 2013 and The Lego Movie in February of this year. Fox has caught on to the change and has their next big superhero tentpole, an untitled Wolverine movie, set to release on March 3rd, 2017. In fact, Despite this on going change in box office strategy, it is safe to say that most big ticket studio blockbusters will still land in the May-July release dates. Marvel and DC have found themselves in a release date war over 2016 and this trend is most likely to continue as long as comic book films are the big box office draw.
“Every instance of a film with a massive debut outside of the traditionally accepted ‘big’ release periods will embolden studios to take more risks,” Rentrak box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian said in commenting on Guardian of the Galaxy‘s debut. “As long as the movies define the month and not the other way around, the taboos will fade away and the notion of the 52-week-a-year business will become a reality and not a myth.” (The Hollywood Reporter – August 2014)
Summer is known to be the best time of the year for movies. The months of May, June and July are seen as the prime months for major motion pictures to be released. Some studios are steering away from those months and releasing their major blockbusters at different times of the year. November seems to be a very popular and successful month for movies. Below is a list of movies that did well outside of the summer prime months on their opening week.
- Frozen – November 2013 – $67 million
- Skyfall – November 2012 – $88 million
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – December 2013 – $9.5 million
- The Hunger Games – March 2012 – $152 Million
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2: November 2012 – $141 million
- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 – November 2010 -$125 million
- Alice in Wonderland – March 2010 – $116 million
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 2014 – $95 million
- Guardians of The Galaxy – August 2014 – $94 million
At one point inime, most of these titles were thought impossible to make. There have been failed attempts such as the awful Fantastic Four film by Roger Corman, which never saw the light of day. There’s also the 1990 Captain America we’d all like to forget. So these titles weren’t even marketable. Now Captain America is clearing $700 million at the box office and Guardians of the Galaxy, a relatively unknown property, similar to the dynamic of Fantastic Four, coming out in August with unexpected success. It’s interesting to see how films like Fantastic Four & Cap have done so well and that a film with a talking raccoon could work out in a once considered dead month of August. It all boils down to if the idea is big enough, it does not matter where it will end up. Here’s hoping the Justice League survive their battle with March, which will be a much easier fight then taking on Captain America backed by the mouse.