It seems that Marvel Studios has been following the same release strategy for the last 2 years. At the start of the movie season they'll drop a guaranteed money maker, an [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) or Winter Soldier, then, once that has made its profit, they'll release a lower budget, less surefire film. Maybe the property isn't that well known, or it contains no real stars, but either way this film has many predicting it could be Marvel's first flop. It turned out incredibly for Guardians of the Galaxy (773m worldwide), and went okay for Ant-Man (519m). This year they're going for it again, with Civil War dropping in May, and then a lesser known hero, in the form of Doctor Strange, making his cinematic debut in November.
Now, I'm not naive enough to say that this film is going to bomb. Marvel Studios has proved enough times that they can, through stellar marketing and assured quality, turn everything into some kind of hit. I do think, however, that Doctor Strange may (and I'm saying may) perform well below expectations, and may even be one of Marvel Studio's first proper under performances (If you don't count Age of Ultron).
I don't think this is the only possible outcome, as there is also evidence for it being a huge hit, but since estimates have it at around 600m-700m worldwide, but I really think this film is going to perform well below expectations.
There are a couple of reasons for this, but let's begin with tone, as I think this is going to be the most important. There is no doubt that this film is going to bring something different to the MCU (offering a darker and magically-orientated hero), and some may say that this is what helped films like GOTG and Deadpool perform so well. But let's be honest, when has a "fresh" take on the superhero genre not simply been a slightly more comedic and self-aware version of what we've seen before?
It makes sense that these sort of films connect, the self-awareness and humour make the weird characters and setting easier to swallow. Doctor Strange won't have this advantage, in fact, I think its "supernatural horror" tone is going to turn some people off. Without the backing of humour and a fun atmosphere, audiences may simply not connect with this film like they did with Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Horror movies have a place in the movie marketplace, but there's no denying that the audience for them is smaller than most other genres. The highest grossing supernatural/horror movie of the last 10 years is The Conjuring, and that didn't break 350m worldwide, a milestone that Doctor Strange will have to nearly double to be considered a success. When estimates are as high as 700m, and Ant-Man, an audience-friendly heist film with solid reviews only made 500m, it seems like this one might just not live up to expectations.
But it has to be taken into account that this isn't going to be a straight-up horror movie, it's also a superhero film, and those are big money makers right? Well, superhero films that delve into the horror genre don't have a great track record. Aside from Constantine, there are a long list of bombs that fall into this category, including (but not limited to) Jonah Hex, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Blade: Trinity and R.I.P.D. Even the Hellboy Films, probably the best performing example of this genre, still haven't made a movie that grossed over 170m gloablly, even if their budgets go north of 80m.
In fact, looking at this sub-genre on the whole, it doesn't contain a single film that has crossed 300m worldwide. There is an audience for this, sure, but it isn't a 700m+ audience, so it seems inevitable that this film is going to disappoint.
Now, without an agreeable tone, can the cast of Doctor Strange alone bring audiences in? That doesn't seem too likely, as this film seems to be lacking in a genuine box office draw, something that it really seems to need. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Paul Rudd all proved themselves to be able to pull in crowds before they starred in their own Marvel film, alas, the same cannot be said for Benedict Cumberbatch. Although he's started in some profitable films as a voice actor, almost all of his live action roles have been bombs, with films like Black Mass, Zoolander 2 and The Fifth Estate all either underperforming or losing money.
It is true that the cinematic Sherlock episode was able to pull in big numbers, especially in China, but that is likely to be to do with the show more than the people starring in it. Other cast member, Chiwetel Ejiofor, tried to do a dark action film last weekend with Triple 9, and that made 6.5m opening weekend. The rest of the cast may have prestige, but Mads Mikkelsen couldn't carry a TV show, and Tilda Swinton hasn't starred in anything mainstream in years (if you ignore the cameo in Trainwreck).
As I said before, although someone like Paul Rudd or Chris Evans aren't huge action movie stars, they'd at least proved themselves to be able to carry live action movies before, and aside from The Imitation Game 2 years ago (which seems irrelevant because it was aiming for an entirely different audience) the cast of this film can't make this claim.
Finally, we have to look at the release date of this film. It's being put out dangerously close to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, another magic orientated adventure that may draw attention away from Doctor Strange. Also, 2 fantasy adventure films that look at wizards and amulets are going to have overlapping markets, and it seems very probable that the spinoff to one of the largest and most beloved young adult franchises of all time may take a big chunk out of Doctor Strange's profits.
Sure, It's possible that all this could not affect the film in the slightest, and it could go on to make 900m worldwide and win 20 Oscars, this is all simply guesswork. But looking at all these points, it seems entirely possible that Marvel's latest solo adventure is going to perform well below expectations.
Do you think Doctor Strange is going to underperform? How well do you think it is going to be received? Talk about it in the comments below, and if you liked this post, follow this blog on Twitter (@boxofficebreak1) and Google Plus.