Feb
18
2019

My estimate for Captain Marvel’s Box Office.

100-120 million opening, 600-800 million total. This is an origin story with a not previous movie-established superhero (unlike Black Panther or Aquaman, both of whom I think benefited strongly from strong appearances in ensemble films) with a low budget (for the MCU) and no horror stories about filming and/or production. Marvel gets 600 million out of this, they’re happy and will make a sequel.

More to the point: that was likely the plan all along, and I am going to say right now that Captain Marvel isn’t going to make a billion bucks and there was never any chance that it would. This is an Ant-Man and the Wasp movie hoping to be Thor: Ragnarok, and there are worse things to be than between those two movies.

And before anybody says Solo

  • One, Solo was a project that would a priori tick people off. Harrison Ford was Han Solo, not whoever that kid (who did a good job, btw) was.   Counter-point: People are ticked off that Captain Marvel isn’t a Mar-vell movie. Counter-counter-point: You need a PowerPoint slide to help everyday, normal moviegoers distinguish between every ‘Captain Marvel’ that’s ever shown up; you don’t need one for Han SHOT FIRST Solo.
  • Two, Solo was widely perceived to be a flawed project; multiple directors, script problems, drama, drama, drama.  The MCU either doesn’t have drama in its films, or Disney locks it down and don’t let anybody see it. Counter-point: Brie Larson is out there acting like an entitled, obnoxious jackwagon who despises pretty much everybody reading this sentence. Counter-counter-point: Yes, they do that in Hollywood. Mark Ruffalo does it all the dang time.  Didn’t stop anybody from going to see Thor: Ragnarok, did it? More to the point: remember when Ron Howard had to swoop in to save Solo?  Yeah, people were still remembering that when trying to decide whether to go see it. Production problems loom over the bottom line. That’s why they’re usually news.
  • Three, expectations for Solo were ridiculous, right up to opening night, and far too reliant on the insanely inflated numbers for Force Awakens (and, to a lesser extent, Rogue One).  Last Jedi would have been a better benchmark.  Counter-point: Solo bombed by Last Jedi standards, too.  This is a rubble-bouncing argument.  Counter-counter-point: Yes.  Counter-counter-counter-point: Huh? Counter-x4-point: see Two, above.  The issue here is that Black Panther is no more a reasonable standard for Marvel origin stories as Force Awakens was for — anything else, really.  If Captain Marvel does 100 million in its first weekend, and goes on to 600-800 million total (again: Ant-Man and the Wasp to Thor: Ragnarok numbers), then there is no actual rubble to bounce.  
  • Four, the production budget for Captain Marvel is somewhere around 152 millionSolo’s was 275 million.  Counterpoint: So what?  That just means that Marvel-Disney doesn’t expect this movie to be worth more resources.  Counter-counter-point: Yes. Thank you for conceding that. It also means that they had far less internal drama on the set than Solo did.  Then again, so did the Crimean War — but I digress.  The counter-counter-point is that a journeyman MCU film with no obvious internal flaws is more likely to hit its numbers than a Star Wars film with a ‘troubled’ history and a production budget that bloated up for non-visual effects reasons.  That means, again, 600-800 million total.
  • Counter-point gets the final question: And what happens if Captain Marvel hits 80 million opening weekend, and goes on to make up to maybe 450 million?  Is it still a success, just because it technically made its money back? Counter-counter-point: No, of course not. Not by MCU standards.  Also, I’d be flat-out wrong about all of this, of course. But if we’re using Solo’s percentages as the benchmark, the equivalent number would have to be more like 217 million for Captain MarvelIncluding foreign revenue.  If that happens, start putting Disney-Marvel executives on suicide watch.

Moe Lane

PS: All of those movies can be found on Amazon, of course.

17 Comments

  • bensdad00 says:

    Condensed version for the TL/DR crowd:

    Larson=jackwagon

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Fairly annoying one, too.

      • ChrisValentine says:

        Mark Ruffolo might spend his time attacking the politics I hold, and maybe politicians I like (or dislike less than the alternatives), and he might be as smug as anyone out of Hollywood, but…

        He’s not sitting there attacking me for being me, and telling the world that people like me should butt out of the whole process.

    • Gnarledhotep says:

      Definitely comes across that way, but that’s baked into the equation already. I would wager that many/most Hollywood types are jackwagons when you get right to it. What kills it for me is the vocal fry. It may be petty, but I can. not. stand. the vocal fry in the trailers. When I was young and stupid, I thought it sounded cute. But I’m not young (and arguably not stupid) these days. It completely removes any sense of “take this character seriously” for me.

      • Luke says:

        Hollywood is full of jackwagons.
        But jackwagons who are vocal about not wanting your tainted money are much thinner on the ground.

    • Jon says:

      My enthusiasm is going against this jackwagonism, and currently enthusiasm is winning. Currently.

  • acat says:

    I figure it this way:
    .
    Basic Marvel movie money .. costs $100M, earns 500M.
    .
    Modifier .. *really good* movie (see Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther) .. earns more.
    .
    Modifier .. *scores with previously under-served audience* (see Black Panther, Wonder Woman***) .. earns much more.
    .
    Modifier .. main-line movie .. costs go up by 5% per prior “main-line” .. earnings *only* go up *if* *really good* modifier achieved. Making main-line movies is the risky part.
    .
    Saves all the point-counterpoint, and everything fits.
    .
    The studio spent main-line x 9 money on ‘Solo’, but it’s *not* a main-line movie, and did not reach an under-served audience, nor was it a *really good* movie. (it barely achieves ‘adequate’).
    .
    Thor: Ragnarok was *really good*, which is why it earned out more’n, say, “Guardians II”, which was .. not so good. It should have been**, but .. flawed.
    .
    Ant Man was good .. not *really good*, but good. The other two Thor movies were good .. not *really good*, but good.
    .
    Black Panther was both *really good* and reached an under-served audience. Same with Wonder Woman. Same with Rogue One.
    .
    Solo .. did not achieve any modifiers.
    .
    Projecting forward ..
    .
    Captain Marvel will only peak at 500M if it’s not good. .. but if it’s good, it should hit 800M .. and it could go much, much higher if it hits both *really good* and *under-served audience*.
    .
    Mew
    .
    .
    .
    .
    *** Yes, this isn’t Marvel, but neither is Star Wars.
    ** When you know you’re going to be disappointed by what’s on the sound track .. and then the one actually *good* song isn’t even in the movie .. yeah, it should have been better.

    • acat says:

      (note that this applies to other franchises as well .. Star Trek IV was both *really good* and *under-served audience* .. and was the only one to achieve both)
      .
      Mew

  • junior says:

    Some random notes…

    I’ve heard about Larson’s escapades from Ace’s blog. I haven’t heard anything about them from my non-political Marvel fan friends. So I don’t know whether news about them has reached the wider public. If it hasn’t, then what she’s been up to won’t have a negative effect on the audience numbers.

    I’ve yet to hear any of my non-political friends say anything that would suggest that they’re not looking forward to this movie.

    Now having said the above “things might not be so bad” items…

    Brie Larson’s performance in this movie is likely to be critical. The big draws up until now have been Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans. There’s no denying that Marvel did an excellent job in casting both of them, and audiences have loved watching both men on the screen. But both men are pretty much finished with the roles at this point. Downey’s been talking about leaving the role for a while. Evans has apparently indicated in the past that he wants to leave acting and go into directing. And there’s a comment by him that I read somewhere in which he essentially says, “My contract was up with the last movie, but I’m sticking around for End Game because it’s the big payoff movie and it would be wrong to everyone to quit right before the end.”

    So Downey and Evans are out going forward. They’re no longer going to be an audience draw. From what I understand, Larson’s supposed to take their place. But if people walk away from Captain Marvel and they’re unhappy with Larson’s work, then that’s not going to happen.

    In that case, Marvel’s going to need to be willing to rewrite whatever plans they had to incorporate a team-up between Dr. Strange, and a (mostly) rehabilitated Loki. Because as things currently stand, the only two actors in the cast who can draw in those kinds of audience levels are Cumberbatch and Hiddleston.

    Now having said that, a team-up between the two – handled properly – would be pretty cool.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Yeah, I expect that – live or die – Cap and Iron Man aren’t going to be showing up on screen in the next phase. I also pretty much intend to checkpoint the MCU after Endgame, because honestly it just seems like a natural thematic spot for resetting expectations. The Spider-Man movies have promise, but they’re Sony; the new hypothetical X-Men and Fantastic Four flicks are who-knows; and Kevin Feige will not do this for the rest of his life.

      If it works out because Larson is entertaining and the next phases maintain current quality, awesome. If they don’t, I can say “Well, Feige made it rain for eleven years” and be a happy geek, because Endgame was really that, all along.

    • Aetius451AD says:

      Agree especially on Larson being the big question mark. We are taking some of the shaky, uneven trailers into account while also figuring in her comments off camera (or at least the movie camera.)
      .
      Downey is kind of a bone of contention with me. I read Iron Man before he was a Top Tier Hero *coughlate80’scough*. They changed the character, but it is hard to argue that he took it to an interesting spot and made the role his own.
      .
      Evans pretty much slipped into the already established Cap and just breathed life into what was already there. They pretty much managed to make a true to life 1940s and 1950s type hero ‘without’ laying the modern spin on that character, because to hell with you. “There’s only one God, Ma’am. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

      • junior says:

        They made Cap unironic. I’d bet that there were a lot of people at Marvel who were afraid to let Cap be played straight. But they went ahead and did it anyway, and it paid off very well.

        Though I’m betting that if they hadn’t done the period piece war movie first, then there would have been a lot more resistance to the idea.

        • Moe_Lane says:

          I was thinking about something similar: that line at the end of Iron Man when Tony Stark just says “The truth is… I am Iron Man”? That was all Downey. He ad-libbed it, and they decided to run with it. Imagine the entire MCU with the default assumption that superheroes would hide their identities. It’d be completely different.

    • Jon says:

      It’s a shame that Evans is going out because some of the better Avengers stories have Cap and CMarvel butting heads. C’est la vie…

  • Compound says:

    “People are ticked off that Captain Marvel isn’t a Mar-vell movie.”
    .
    Some of us are ticked off that it’s not Monica Rambeau as well. Much better character. Much more interesting powers.
    I’d make a Billy Batson comment too if he wasn’t due the month after Carol shows up.

    • junior says:

      Monica Rambeau is my favorite Captain Marvel. But the company doesn’t appear to appreciate her all that much, and has badly mistreated her over the years (first and foremost making her give up her name TWICE to Mar-Vell’s brat).

      When one of my Facebook friends posted a link to an article about the change to Carol Danver’s background that made her powers not reliant on Mar-Vell (because icky man-cooties; yes, seriously), I snarked that they ought to have her give up the Captain Marvel name, too, since that also comes from Mar-Vell. And let Monica have it back.

      Hopefully they’ll do something useful with Monica’s mother in the upcoming movie, though it looks like her role is likely to be limited to flashbacks.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      I am allowing myself hope about Shazam.

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