Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
August 5, 2014
Kim Hollis: Guardians of the Galaxy, the newest Marvel theatrical release, debuted with $94.3 million this weekend. How did Disney propel this film to such a magnificent result?
David Mumpower: Disney has provided a focused, borderline obsessive marketing strategy for this film for the body of 2014. What stuns me about the performance, however, is not that the marketing succeeded. It is the implication underneath the numbers. On the surface, there is absolutely no difference between Guardians of the Galaxy and John Carter. Both are outer space epics that include very little time on Earth despite the fact that the lead character is born on this planet. Disney had to take a $200 million write-down for John Carter. Part of that is because John Carter cost $275 million to produce, but another key is that its ad campaign was expensive as well. Disney tried to buy a new franchise, and they literally paid the price for their ambition.
Some of you may be reading this and saying, "John Carter was not a superhero space epic." Well, there is a model of failure in that regard as well. Green Lantern is a DC Comics property with a similar outer space setting. We all remember how that movie did in 2011. Spoiler: it bombed. Green Lantern cost $200 million to produce while earning $116.6 million domestically, $220 million worldwide. Cosmologically, there is virtually no difference between Green Lantern and Guardians of the Galaxy. A human becomes a universal hero and befriends a few CGI aliens along the way.
Two films that followed this same blueprint bombed horribly. A third film featuring only one true star in the cast just destroyed the August box office record. And the reason why it happened is simple. Brand loyalty to Marvel/Disney, which I call Marvney, is so complete that people will take a chance on their comic book movies independent of how they look. I have been openly mocking that first ad for Guardians of the Galaxy, the Hooked on a Feeling one, since the moment I saw it. John C. Reilly's apathy in that clip is total. The only way he could phone it in more is by using an actual phone. This movie has been a punchline for me for the body of 2014, and now I am left wondering if I should stop mocking Ant-Man as well. If Guardians of the Galaxy can open to $94 million, standard rules, logic and reason may be out the window for all existing Marvel properties.
As I mentioned in the Weekend Wrap-Up, Guardians of the Galaxy has just been treated like an Avengers property despite having no direct ties to that project (save for Thanos and his alien butler, if we want to split hairs). It has matched Captain America: The Winter Soldier despite the fact that it is A) not a sequel and B) a new property during a summer where sequels have primarily dominated. The ONLY explanation for such behavior is the Marvel name. It has become a stronger brand identifier than Pixar, as shocking as that is to type. Previous iterations of this same attempt failed mightily. This one succeeded due to faith in the Marvel brand. I am stunned by this turn of events, as Guardians of the Galaxy never struck me as anything more than a Serenity wannabe. In execution, it has proven to be a well-received Star Wars wannabe as well as a blueprint for how to build the Disney phase of the Star Wars universe.
Matthew Huntley: David, your analysis was striking and probably something I've been thinking subconsciously, though it never quite came to the surface of my brain, so thanks for pointing this out! I think you're definitely onto something here and just as the Disney brand name has allowed the studio to make more money that it probably deserves, as well as Pixar, Marvel now wields this power as well. And I totally agree with you that Guardians of the Galaxy is a Serenity and Star Wars wannabe, although I still think it makes for decent entertainment.
Along with the Marvel name, there are some other obvious factors that contributed to this record-setting debut, including: A) All the hype/anticipation/fanboy word-of-mouth to come out of Comic Con last weekend; B) A month-long drought of event/notable movies at the summer box-office - audiences finally found something worthy they could throw their money at; C) Zero competition. I wouldn't be surprised if, given Guardians' numbers, that more studios wait till the latter half of the summer to launch their tent poles.