It’s Comic Book Movie Month on Filmophilia. April sees us highlighting material that centers on comic book movie-related material. This is one of those posts.

Will The Avengers be huge? I’m not talking about the scale, or cast size, for we already know that it contains a record number of major superheroes and has reportedly set Marvel Enterprises back at least $220 million in production costs.

What nobody really knows is how big of an impact it will make when it finally hits cinemas worldwide late April/early May. Some are making out that anything less than a ten-letter sum would be a major shock, while others are reporting slow tracking as a sign of it being the second big flop this year. Will it crash and burn or will it become Billion Dollar Movie #11? Will it even return a profit? Let’s break the film’s possibilities down.

Estimated Cost (reports vary between $170 and $260 million): $220 million
Break-Even Point (Studios get on average around 55% of a film’s revenue): $400 million 
Hit-Status: $600 million
Sequel-Unavoidable-Status: $800 million 

The Avengers is technically the sixth film in Marvel’s Avengers franchise films (after Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger). However, traditional franchise terms don’t really apply here, since every film (except Iron Man 1 & 2) features different protagonists and storylines each time, only interconnected through fringe characters, Nick Fury and Agent Coulson. Tony Stark does appear in a post-credit sequence in The Incredible Hulk, and his name is referenced in Thor, but that about sums that up. Therefore we won’t try to compare The Avengers’ odds with long-running franchises like Harry Potter, James Bond or Fast Five.

Instead, let’s look at each individual Avengers film for the most direct comparison.

Here we see each Avengers’ lead-in film’s gross, divided into US, Rest Of World and Total.

FILM US ROW TOTAL
Iron Man 318,4 266,7 585,2
The Incredible Hulk 134,8 128,6 263,4
Iron Man 2 312,4 311,5 623,9
Thor 181 268,3 449,3
Captain America 176,7 192 368,6

Despite the intense attention and hype around these films, none have come close to the elusive Billion Dollar Movie status. And if you count out the Iron Man films, none have even broken $500 million worldwide.

Yes, Robert Downey Jr‘s Tony Stark will be more than prominent in The Avengers, and has been front-and-center in every trailer to date. But as the film is led by four lead characters trying to co-exist, it might not be enough to encourage the general masses to flock to “Robert Downey Jr’s next macho showcase”. Also, the film must appeal more to demographics outside young males, and a recent clip showcases Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow as something more than the tragically underused acrobat-for-hire in Iron Man 2, presumably in an attempt to tell us that the film is not just “cool guys being cool” while aiming for exactly the same demographic as before. However, we have not been introduced to a single hint of a romantic subplot of any kind (except of course for the unavoidable stormy bromance between Hemsworth’s Thor and Evans’ Cap Am), which makes it hard for the traditional female demographic to connect with the movie.

Additionally, the soundtrack reinforces the Manly-Man projection of The Avengers’ image, therefore showing that Marvel has great faith that Downey’s presence alone will catapult the film to well over $400 million worldwide, the minimum needed to make a profit.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY9DnBNJFTI]
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But making a profit is not the same as becoming a hit. After all this hype, anything less than $600 million worldwide would be considered a disappointment, which would require the film to at least equal Iron Man’s success. With all that starpower, all macho posturing aside, it shouldn’t really be a problem.

But how high is The Avengers’ ceiling? Two different charts can help us determine that.

A – The biggest Comic Book Movies ever:

FILM US ROW TOTAL
The Dark Knight 533,3 468,6 1001,9
Spider-Man 3 336,5 554,3 890,9
Spider-Man 403,7 418 821,7
Spider-Man 2 373,6 410,2 783,8
Iron Man 2 312,4 311,5 623,9

B – The biggest Superhero Movies ever:

FILM US ROW TOTAL
The Dark Knight 533,3 468,6 1001,9
Spider-Man 3 336,5 554,3 890,9
Spider-Man 403,7 418 821,7
Spider-Man 2 373,6 410,2 783,8
The Incredibles 261,4 370 631,4

As these two charts show, the biggest comic book movies involve superheroes, as only one superhero film not derived from a comic breaks the top five superhero chart. And with an assortment of some of the biggest superheroes of the last few years, The Avengers should realistically be aiming to enter both top five charts. So the goal has been raised slightly, to “more than $632 million.” But I think we can demand even more.

HSX.com is perhaps the world’s strangest computer game. In it, you sign up, receive an imaginary $2 million and start trading in stocks on movies, with the aim of accurately predicting each film’s gross through its first four weeks in release. It has proven to be a fairly accurate barometer on films in the past (here’s an example from 2006), and currently The Avengers is trading at a massive $326, meaning the players expect it to gross $326 million in the US in the month of May alone. That, according to HSX’s formula, amounts to an opening weekend north of $120 million.

Let’s be cautious. Let’s say the film is slightly overestimated and ends up with $326 million in final gross. As the Marvel films, with the exception of Thor, have been relatively USA-centric in their appeal, let’s say that will be 49% of the film’s worldwide gross, which is the Avengers’ lead-in films’ average ratio. That would mean $338 million internationally, and a worldwide gross of $665 million.

That’s not too shabby.

Sensible forecast: $665 million
The Pessimist: $450 million
The Optimist: $850 million
Possibility of sequel: Highly likely 

The Next Billion Dollar Movie Chances: 25%

Hit or Miss: Definite Hit

Do you think the film will hit or miss? Tell us why.

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  • http://seanoverman.wordpress.com seanoverman

    I like your breakdown and analysis for the forecast, if you will, for it being a next billion dollar movie. Intriguing. I certainly hope it is.

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  • http://claratsi.wordpress.com claratsi

    i just hope that The Avengers lives up to all the hype but i am certain it will break a billion worldwide maybe surpass The Dark Knights gross, probably until The Dark Knight rises comes out.

  • http://bjarkidagur.wordpress.com BjarkiD

    Honestly, I think there’s plenty of appeal in this movie. I mean, it’s a whole bunch of popular superheroes together, led by Downey Jr., who at this point could get a documentary on soap to open huge.

    With The Dark Knight Rises coming out this year, I think a relatively light, fun comic book movie will do good.

  • fettastic

    This addresses HYPE, but obviously can’t talk about whether or not the film is actually any good. I’m sure it will at least be passable, but it’s still risky since the director’s only other movie was one of the worst bombs of that year.

    • http://filmophilia.com Erlingur Gretar

      Exactly. That is one of the concerns, although his critical reputation is very good. I’m not assessing whether the film is any good or not, as you say, but previous numbers, along with a successful promotion campaign point to a very positive outcome for The Avengers.

      • fettastic

        This is a well researched and written article that was informative and entertaining to read. From everything I’ve seen, The Avengers will be a great romp. I just thought my point was one that should be noted.

      • fettastic

        The tweets are in from the premiere. Looks liek we can all breath a sigh of relief. http://www.slashfilm.com/early-buzz-the-avengers/

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