The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Justice League (A Trilogy)

Will The Dark Knight Rises make The Avengers the second place opening weekend after only 2 months atop the list?

Editorial Opinion

(Disclaimer: As Kevin Smith says, this is a statement made to save one’s own ass. This is only opinion and not meant to start any flame wars. It is merely an interpretation of numbers and using that interpretation to hypothesize an outcome. Other than a few tongue-in-cheek jests, I write this from as objective a postion as I can, despite being a huge Batman fan that also thoroughly enjoyed The Avengers. Any use of terms like “fringe”, “B-list” or “obscure” when describing certain characters is not meant as a slight to those characters. Again, they are merely an interpretation of the numbers available. Also, in hypothesizing, I’ve had to make some guesses with regard to certain calculations, like how much extra money a film generates thanks to 3D, etc. I’m sure you enjoyed reading this disclaimer and marveled at the space I wasted in a fruitless and futile attempt to absolve myself of responsibility for any flame wars this editorial generates. As if that which I write was so important that it could have such a huge impact. I also realize that writing this article and doing the research to write it means I have way too much time on my hands. So there.)

In part 1 of this 3-part editorial, I will examine whether or not The Dark Knight Rises can dethrone The Avengers after just 2 months.

As Joker said in The Dark Knight, “There’s no going back. You’ve changed things. Forever.” That seems to be the best way to describe what The Avengers opening weekend means. From now on, we live in a world where a movie can make at least $200 million domestically in its first weekend of release. And it was a comic book movie that thrust us into that world.

While all comic book fans have their allegiances (I’ve always said I’m not a DC guy, I’m a Batman guy. I get no special joy out of what company logo is on the front of his comics and movies), there is little point in rooting against a comic book movie, any comic book movie. A huge weekend like The Avengers just achieved is a boon for the genre of comic book movies. In fact, the only aspect that could be viewed as a potential negative would be that that bar has been raised yet again and therefore, the expectations are only going to get higher, which can lead to frequent failed attempts to live up to those expectations. But even that is a dubious argument as it is much better to have filmmakers shooting for the moon when they make these films. So failure be damned, keep raising the bar and the expectations.

And with regard to raised expectations, it’s only natural to ask “Will The Dark Knight Rises make The Avengers the second place opening weekend after only 2 months atop list?” and “Will DC finally make a Justice League movie?” Let’s examine the possibilities.

Will The Dark Knight Rises make The Avengers the second place opening weekend after only 2 months atop the list?

The incredible buzz for The Dark Knight Rises notwithstanding, I would think it would be unlikely for the film to top the opening weekend output of The Avengers. I don’t think it can be overstated how much The Avengers has raised the bar. For now, it least, The Avengers will now be the standard by which all tent-pole movies (not just comic book movies) will be measured when it comes to opening weekends. And it may end up doing even more than that. It will be quite a feat if The Dark Knight Rises manages to take the crown. However, it does not look good for that to happen.

I’ll admit, I underestimate the power of Nolan at my own peril (being an acknowledged “Nolanite” myself). But the arithmetic does not support a record breaking opening weekend for The Dark Knight Rises if for no other reason than the additional income 3D generated for The Avengers. Income that will not be generated for The Dark Knight Rises as it was not shot or post-converted in 3D.

This is not a knock against The Avengers or an attempt to minimize the impact of its opening weekend totals. Yes, the 3D inflates the total, but it’s not as if viewers had no choice in the matter. About 40% of those who saw the film on its opening weekend chose the traditional 3D version and were willing to pay the premium to do so. In addition, another %12 chose IMAX 3D or another premium large format 3D. But ultimately, the traditional 3D (or lack thereof) will probably be the biggest difference when tabulating the totals of both films’ opening weekends.

Both films benefited or will benefit from IMAX and other premium large formats, but those only account (or will account) for about 10% of the grosses. But traditional 3D probably accounted for somewhere between $20 and $25 million in additional ticket revenue for The Avengers (that figure is an estimate based on the tendency for traditional 3D ticket prices to be about 40% more in cost that 2D presentation. For example, a 2D ticket may cost $10 whereas a 3D ticket would cost $14 resulting in an additional $4 in ticket revenue. The key is that it’s additional ticket revenue not the cost of a 3D ticket). So, even if The Dark Knight Rises sells the same number of tickets overall as The Avengers did, which is not an unlikely scenario, it will not benefit from those 3D fees. But, again, it is the prerogative of the studios and the filmmakers as to whether or not to offer that option to the viewers and the viewers’ choice as to whether or not to pay that premium.

In the end, the money made is the money made and The Avengers earned every penny of it. Harry Potter, on the other hand…well…that, of course, doesn’t count. Feel free to minimize it all you want. (Joke. Sort of.)

Now, I am not a professional prognosticator, but I would expect that The Dark Knight Rises would open at around $175-180 million. I reach that conclusion by speculating that it will probably sell the same (or similar) number of tickets as The Avengers but will not have the additional 3D income. The buzz is already high for the film and will only get louder as we close in on July 20, so I anticipate it will give The Avengers a stiff challenge when it comes to attendance. However, I don’t think it will be able to hit $207 million in its opening weekend. But it could surprise me. He is Batman, after all. (This is where Nolanites and DC die-hards point out that it took an entire team of super-heroes to bring down Batman. After that, the anti-Nolanites must point out that Batman is lame and won’t have the death of a cast member to boost box office results this time. Anybody else think Nolanites vs. Anti-Nolanites sounds like a good comic book movie? Yeah, um, me neither.)

Regardless, The Avengers has indeed changed the game. It is nothing less than a seismic shift in the future of comic book movies.

If there is a film on the docket that will immediately challenge The Avengers, it is The Dark Knight Rises. The Amazing Spider-Man certainly has a marquee character that has a proven track record at the box office, but a match-up between a reboot and a highly anticipated conclusion to a critically lauded and financially stout trilogy is not much of a match-up. If The Dark Knight Rises fails to dethrone The Avengers, the next contender is probably The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. After that, you probably have to look well into 2013 for the next contender to step up. (Sorry, vamp fans, but if history is any indicator, Breaking Dawn, Part 2 isn’t going to challenge it.) Because of The Avengers’ popularity, Iron Man 3 could very well be in a position to capitalize on it and challenge for the crown. I would bet that the impact of 3D on The Avengers’ bottom line will further influence Marvel to give the same treatment to Iron Man 3. After that, however, the next serious challenger would probably be Catching Fire in November of 2013, after The Hunger Games has done so exceedingly well (sorry, Superman fans).

The Avengers has made the mountain an even higher one to climb.

In part 2, I will elaborate on whether or not a Justice League film would even work as well as The Avengers did.

For more information on box office results, I recommend boxofficemojo.com.

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