New Characters Wanted: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Is Showing Its Age – Forbes
Get ready, here comes a pop quiz:
Which superhero franchise is more successful: Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or Warner-DC Films’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU)?
Easy, right? Marvel’s movies have nearly all been critically adored and they’ve made loads of money. More than $12 billion in theatrical receipts, which is over $4 billion more in earnings than any other movie franchise in history (ignoring inflation, that is, as per Hollywood custom).
Warners’ DCEU, on the other hand, has been a wildly mixed bag, with reviews ranging from adoring for Wonder Woman to downright condemnatory for Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Unlike the well-oiled machine that MCU’s development and production unit is renowned to be, DCEU has been rife with management challenges. And the numbers, well, the DCEU has cleared barely $3 billion, a measly quarter of the revenue that its cross-town studio rival has minted.
Here’s the thing though, and it may surprise you. On an average worldwide gross box office-per-picture basis, the two franchises have achieved essentially identical results. Prior to current releases Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the MCU movies had cleared an average of $784.7 million in global box office, compared to an average of $762.3 million for the DCEU films. That’s a difference of less than three percent. Add Wonder Woman and the new Spider-Man into the mix (with my conservative projections for their respective final grosses), and the DCEU actually gains the upper hand, with $784.1 million per DCEU picture vs. $782.0 for the MCU.
In large part Warner-DC has Marvel to thank for its own current success. Although Warner Bros. built the modern day superhero movie business back in the 1970s and 1980s with its earlier iterations of the Superman and Batman movies, Marvel modernized it and re-built it, introducing the cinematic universe concept that has been an important element in the DCEU’s strategy. Marvel also did a couple of other important things: first, to introduce American superhero movies to some fresh overseas audiences–most importantly China–and get them to love them as much as Americans do. And second, Marvel proved that audiences would embrace movies about obscure superheroes that emerged from its cinematic universe, perhaps even ones they hadn’t heard of before, and that’s a fact that is proving essential to the vitality of both studios’ prospects.
Marvel was doing fine—great, for the most part—in rolling out its pictures about familiar characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and the Avengers team (the Hulk has been a troubling exception). But things moved to an entirely new level when they found that Ant-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool (controlled by Fox and not an MCU entity) did big numbers too. And it can be truly said that Wonder Woman has completely revitalized the DCEU with her first movie.