“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives,” the Mad Titan Thanos bellows in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer. As excited as I am for this movie, I feel like this line is alluding to the rest of the film industry in Hollywood.
It is no surprise that this new Marvel movie is already breaking records before its release into theaters on April 26th. Tickets recently became available after the world premiere trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, and it broke the record for advanced screening tickets—in a total of six hours. The previous record holder for pre-sales (unsurprisingly Marvel’s other 2018 hit Black Panther) ended up grossing $202 million its opening weekend, and is only one of five films ever to gross over 200 million dollars domestically in a weekend. Soon, six films will likely helm this record.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has had eighteen films released so far, and has earned approximately $6.43 billion domestically and $14.706 billion worldwide. This fortune is huge, and rather impressive, considering this is only their eleventh year making movies. What Marvel Studios has done is changing the world; they were the first company to make a successful cinematic universe, incorporating characters from different stories together and having them interact with each other. It’s a fun concept, and it’s even more fun to see on screen. However, I have a feeling that the MCU is slowly killing cinema.
Now that Marvel has succeeded in making a cinematic universe, it seems as though every corporation wants to make their own. The difference between regular sequels and a cinematic universe is that a sequel follows a singular franchise, while a cinematic universe follows multiple franchises that are interdependent. DC (also based on comic books) is one of the other prominent companies making their own cinematic universe. While not as successful critically or financially, their films are large blockbusters that collect much of the box office profits during the weeks they are prominent in theaters. Other cinematic universes that are beginning to develop include Star Wars (Rian Johnson is directing a trilogy about new heroes that will not follow the established characters from past movies), the LEGO movies, Ghostbusters, X-Men, etc.
These cinematic universes are killing the film industry, and the reason behind has to do with franchising. The days of going to sit down at the theater and enjoying a standalone, complete story that is non-action based are slowly fading away. No one wants to go to a movie unless it is a franchise, which is why the top five highest grossing movies of all time are the two most recent Star Wars movies, Jurassic World, The Avengers, and Black Panther.
An example of what modern, non-franchisable film is becoming is Annihilation, which was a science fiction film directed by Alex Garland that came out in February. With the release of Black Panther the week before, Skydance Studios (Annihilation’s production company) expected it to flop, so it got a straight-to-Netflix release overseas only seventeen days after it came out in America. With the power of torrenting and streaming, American audiences do not even have to go to theaters and pay to see the film if they do not feel like it. Instead, they can just watch it on the Internet, rather than supporting the smaller, standalone film.
Marvel has a clear strategy when making these films called a ”blue ocean strategy,” in which a company develops a new market space that makes competitors irrelevant. Marvel was the first company ever to make a cinematic universe, but it seems to be running out of creative steam. For example, despite Black Panther’s recent success and ability to make some minor changes to the formula, it still felt like a standard Marvel movie. Once other people begin to realize that all of these movies are pretty much the same, the demand is going to begin to plummet.
While Avengers: Infinity War will most likely be a cinematic experience that every man, woman and child is going to go see and enjoy, its presale records are an example of why these cinematic universes can be harmful. I don’t even want to think about what other films might be coming to theaters that weekend or the weekend after, because I don’t see it being dethroned from number one at the box office until the Deadpool sequel comes out three weeks later. Hooray. More comic book movies.