Deadpool - An Unlikely Hero Saves the Box Office
By John Hamann
February 14, 2016
In an odd twist of normal box office behavior, the Sunday was set up to be the bigger day of the weekend, leaving Saturday as a bit of an enigma. The last time the calendar configured in this way was in 2010, and Valentine's Day, The Wolfman, and the Percy Jackson sequel opened, and the two non-sequel films rose over each day of the weekend, scoring their biggest take on Sunday. For Deadpool, it would be seeking to match its "true Friday" amount (Friday gross less Thursday preview amount) on Saturday. The true Friday came in at $34.8 million, while the Saturday amount for Deadpool came in at an impressive $42.3 million, down from the combined Thursday/Friday, but up from the "true Friday." Sunday was estimated at $45 million, up from the Saturday take as expected.
That means that for Deadpool, the three-day weekend estimate comes in at an out-of-hand $135 million from 3,558 venues. Its venue average was an insane $37,957. Deadpool becomes the biggest February opener ever, easily taking down Fifty Shades of Grey, which debuted with $85.1 million, and also becomes the biggest R-rated opener in history. It embarrasses other super-hero products released in February like Ghost Rider ($45.3 million) and Daredevil ($40.3 million). Compared to all the other Marvel entities, it becomes the sixth biggest, beating Spider-Man's $114.8 million, and Iron Man 2's $128.1 million. Compared to box office history, Deadpool becomes the 17th biggest opening of all-time in February, and it still has a big Monday to come. Most analysts were expecting Deadpool to earn HALF of what it did this weekend, making the result even more impressive.
The release strategy was perfect, and in some ways similar to The Force Awakens, as Fox could not have picked a better weekend to open Deadpool. Star Wars used the best Christmas calendar configuration to leap forward, as both Christmas Day and New Year's Day landed on Fridays and their respective "eves" were Thursdays (Avatar had the same configuration). The Valentine's Day configuration was supplemented by the marketing for Deadpool (which was ingenious), and they made the best use of a weekend that many of us questioned originally, since releasing a superhero movie on Valentine's Day weekend seems counterintuitive.
Like The Force Awakens, Deadpool got started for real at last year's Comic Con. The producers showed the trailer to a packed house. The house not only loved it, they chanted “one more time” after it ended, and they played it again. This story made news all over the world, but the studio didn't release the trailer to the internet in the moments afterward. The story became legend, only increasing Deadpool's want-to-see status. Following a marketing campaign that will be taught in the years ahead, Fox hosted fan screenings about a month ago, with the stars, producers and even Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld in attendance. Word out of those screenings was electric, that Deadpool is what most adult comic book fans are seeking - less of a PG-13 superhero story where no punches are pulled.
Critics like Deadpool just about as much as fans do. Of the 185 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, a sizzling 156 reviews were positive, giving Deadpool a fresh rating of 84%. The Cinemascore was a glowing A, which is higher than I expected given the violence that might have surprised some. The box office, reviews and reaction from audiences are all great news for Fox, but the money is the key. Deadpool cost a comparatively tiny $58 million to make -about $125 million LESS than your average $100 million plus opening superhero movie. With the weekend, Fox has already earned their production cost back, and will now work on those marketing costs. I often say that a movie needs to make three times its production cost back at the box office to make money. Deadpool is going to earn that in less than a week.