It's barely May and we're already discussing the impact of not two, but three superhero blockbuster films that are all competing for our ticket money. And if analysts are correct about how the next challenger, X-Men: Days of Future Past, will fare, then we're about to declare a winner.
Variety is reporting that the upcoming X-Men film is tracking a $125 million opening weekend in the U.S. (and don't forget this is a worldwide release). That would surpass both opening weekends for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, positioning X-Men: Days of Future Past as the biggest movie so far in 2014.
To be fair, "Days of Future Past" will be opening on a four-day weekend (Memorial Day weekend), so it's technically impossible to compare the film to the release of Cap and Spidey with 100% accuracy.
If you look at the four-day numbers for those movies, however, then you can award Captain America: The Winter Soldier with just over $100 million in its first four days and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with nearly $97 million (both in the U.S. only).
"Days of Future Past" would also be setting its own record for an opening release by overshadowing X-Men: The Last Stand, which earned $122 million by the same numbers. Further, it's predicted that the new X-Men film will earn a total of $250 million in the states, which also beats "The Last Stand" at $234 million.
So what's the deal? Why are insiders so confident in the X-Men right now?
As someone who's been following the marketing, promotion and overall execution of these three films, I believe I can point to some possible signs of X-Men's potential as the 2014 "Comic Book Movie Supreme."
The major one is that X-Men is an ensemble film, and audiences love ensemble casts. Just look at how many people lined up to watch the Avengers unite. Add to that the fact that this film combines the star power of about a dozen well-known actors, both new and old to the franchise.
Unlike "Winter Soldier" and ASM2, "Days of Future Past" is uniting an ensemble cast that dates 14 years, steadily building a large fan base over the years, albeit with a few box office hiccups along the way.
Speaking of which, people still remember how well "First Class" worked out in 2011, so the promise of another X-Men ensemble film that's actually uniting the best of both timelines has energized both new and existing fans of the film.
Compare that to what was working against Captain America and Spider-Man this year. Though I personally loved Cap's first solo film back in 2011, it was met with a lot of "meh" reactions from audiences in general. The trailers convinced plenty of said fans that "The Winter Soldier" would be something special, but the hype was still far lower than it should have been (for the record, I expect "Winter Soldier" to be the best of the three films overall, even if it's not a bigger success, financially).
With ASM2, you still have a lot of bad blood between some fans and Sony for rebooting a franchise so drastically, so quickly. Many critics and sincere Spidey lovers were ready to absolutely hate ASM2 for the spirit of the thing, regardless of whether or not it's actually "good" or "bad" on a technical level.
After the dust settled for both of these films, however, they still managed to draw in huge audiences because of what they had working for them. In many peoples' minds, Marvel can do no wrong, and this Captain America sequel is essential reading for the upcoming Avengers sequel. ASM2 released in the UK early, providing a healthy amount of buzz that provoked genuine curiosity on how far Sony has come since ASM back in 2012.
And then you have 20th Century Fox's X-Men experiment. Many would say, including myself, that "First Class" and The Wolverine redeemed the sins of "The Last Stand" and "Origins Wolverine," two sequentially ill-received films.
Granted, "Days of Future Past" has plenty working against it as well. We still have no idea whether or not the movie will be either brilliant or too convoluted to keep audiences coming after the hype settles down.
Many of you may also be wondering if the film will be dragged down by the Bryan Singer controversy, and rightly so. From what I can tell, however, said controversy will have little impact. My main rubric for this opinion is a poll I set up weeks ago about the issue (which is attached to the link above), asking the question, "Will you still see the movie?"
The overwhelming consensus was Yes (Specifically, over 1,000 of you said you would compared to the 91 who either said No or Maybe). And I believe the reason droves will still come out to see "Days of Future Past" is because they've invested time in watching this franchise grow since 2000, and it's time to see how Fox applies what they've learned so far.
In other words, X-Men: Days of Future Past is Fox's own version of The Avengers (both in style and execution), and that's their biggest advantage over the competition for the 2014 box office.
That is, until Guardians of the Galaxy checks in come August.
X-Men: Days of Future Past opens worldwide on May 23.
Who will win 2014's "Comic Book Movie Supreme"