Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!

This is a simpler week because there’s only one new wide release, but it’s also a big week, because that one movie could give the box office turnaround begun by How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World an even bigger boost.

CAPTAIN MARVEL (Marvel Studios/Disney)

Captain Marvel is an important movie for Marvel Studios and Disney, because it’s testing the water on whether they can deliver a blockbuster superhero movie with a female star ala Warners/DC with Wonder Woman back in 2017.

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Captain Marvel is probably not as well-known as other second and third-string Marvel characters like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, although the Carol Danvers incarnation of the character has been around in some form or another since the ‘70s when she was known as Ms. Marvel, complete with her own series. At the time, Marvel creators were probably thinking calling her “Ms.” would be the pro-feminist way to name the character, although Danvers was then put through the wringer over the next forty years, appearing in various X-Men and Avengers comics under different guises. In fact, Carol Danvers didn’t even assume the mantle and name “Captain Marvel” until her second solo series by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy in 2012. Since then, she’s played a large part in most of Marvel Comics events making her an obvious choice to be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

It’s somewhat hard to believe but the 29-year-old Brie Larson has been working as an actor for twenty of those years, though she first started getting attention as Envy Adams in Edgar Wright’s 2010 movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Brie Larson’s steamroller career has been rolling along quite steadily with her memorable turn in Destin Daniel Cretton’s 2013 indie Short Term 12, followed by her first Oscar win for 2015’s Room, which helped her line-up bigger studio films like 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Larson also made her directorial debut with the film Unicorn Store, which will premiere on Netflix next month following its 2017 premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

The movie’s other not-so-secret weapon(s) are the return of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury for the first time since Captain America: Winter Soldier in 2014 and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson in the MCU since 2012’s The Avengers. Gregg moved over to the television side of things with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he played such a big part in the early building of the MCU, it’s great having him back. Jackson is a bonafide movie star in his own right, though, and having him featured in the commercials and trailers will help bring in more of the MCU’s urban male fanbase then a movie starring a white woman might otherwise. (Jackson and Larson appeared together in Kong: Skull Island as well, and Jackson appears in Unicorn Store, as well.)

Then there are the new additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including a number of award-winning actors like Annette Bening as the Kree Supreme Intelligence (obviously in a very different form than the comics), Jude Law as Yon-Rogg who trains Danvers, and Ben Mendelsohn in another villainous role as Talos, presumably a Skrull. We’ve barely seen either of the latter two in many of the commercials and trailers, so there must be some reason for that. (To me, the biggest breakthrough about Captain Marvel is that it’s the first movie introducing Skrulls, classic Marvel villains going back to the early days of Lee and Kirby, who are finally being brought into the movies.)

British actor Lashana Lynch joins the MCU as Maria Rambeau, presumably the mother to the woman who  later took on the mantle of Captain Marvel in the comics before renamed “Photon,” while Gemma Chan from Crazy Rich Asians takes on the role of Minn-Erva, who is better known in the comics as the villainous Kree geneticist Dr. Minerva, who faced the original Captain Marvel.  Also, a number of characters first introduced in Guardians of the Galaxyare returning for Captain Marvel, including Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, which makes sense due to Ronan’s connection to the Kree and Captain Marvel stories, plus Djimon Hounsou as Korath.

Unfortunately, the main barometer for this movie’s success will inevitably be Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel is not Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is a character who has been around for over 70 years, including a successful and beloved television show starring Lynda Carter and regular appearances on Justice League and Super Friends cartoons. Captain Marvel is just Marvel’s attempt to push a female superhero to the forefront despite other characters like Black Widow (or maybe even Spider-Woman?) probably being better choices. At least the comic book division of Marvel has wisely been building the character up with a series of successful solo comic series. In both cases, it’s another terrific initiative to get more women reading (and creating) comics, which is something I wholeheartedly endorse as will many others. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel could immediately become a hero to younger girls who go see the movie, although who knows how many will choose to see this vs. something like How to Train Your Dragon, which is still doing quite well?

On the other hand, Captain Marvelis what’s referred to as a four-quadrant movie, because it’s one that can appeal to both younger and older men and women, so the real question is whether this movie can have the same impact that Ryan Coogler’s Black Pantherdid last year. Although Black Panther was essentially a third-string Marvel character, that movie grossed $700 million, the biggest take in the studio’s ten year run, grossing more than all three Avengers movies.

Let’s look at a few numbers for comparison:

Iron Man (5/2/08)

$98.6 million opening / $318.4 million domestic total

Thor (5/6/11)

$65.7 million / $181 million

Captain America: The First Avenger (7/22/11)

$65.1 million / $176.6 million

Ant-Man (7/7/15)

$57.2 million / $180.2 million

Doctor Strange (11/4/16)

$85.1 million / $232.6 million 

Wonder Woman (6/2/17)

$103.2 million / $412.5 million 

Black Panther (2/16/18)

$202 million / $700 million

Iron Man and Black Panther are two of the outliers in the MCU,  as they both debuted solo Marvel characters in their own movies to big openings, although Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa first appeared in Captain America: Civil War two years earlier. Captain Marvel is coming into the weekend with only a small tease at the end of Avengers: Infinity War last year, which might make it a tougher sell for anyone who doesn’t know the history of the character.

We can also safely presume that the “Avengers factor” will be in play, because the millions and millions of people who saw last year’s hit Avengers: Infinity War will want to see Captain Marvel before seeing April’s Avengers: Endgame next month, presuming the Captain will play a large part in that conclusion to Marvel Studios’ third phase. That would make perfect sense since she has always been one of Marvel’s big-time cosmic and space-based characters, especially in recent years.

Even more than Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel is largely being sold as a pro-feminist movie (just like the Ms. Marvel comic in the ‘70s?), something that Brie Larson has continued with her campaign to get more female critics and journalists of color to cover the movie. That, in turn, has led to an internet fanboy backlash similar to the one for Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, although in this case, it’s not apt to hurt the film’s box office since there are already many fighting against the haters.

I haven’t had a chance to see the movie before writing this, but the early reviews seem rather mixed compared to the early reactions last week. At this point, Marvel’s movies (at least the ones produced by Marvel) are fairly review-proof regardless, mainly because this has already become the type of event movie we only get a few times a year.

This is Marvel’s first March release but having already had hits outside the summer and holiday box office season, notably with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Black Panther, opening your tentpole movie outside the summer is no longer a problem. In a best-case scenario, Captain Marvel will be gunning for some of the March opening records like The Hunger Games’ $152 million or Beauty and the Beast’s $175 million opening, though both of those were based on much bigger and more popular properties, too.

While I’m not too optimistic that Captain Marvel can open anywhere near the $200 million opening of Black Panther, a solid opening weekend over $100 million shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. If it makes $18* to 19 million in Thursday previews – more than Thor: Ragnarok– that would be incorporated into roughly a $50* million Friday. With that kind of start, an opening weekend in the $125 million range seems doable, putting it into the same ballpark as Iron Man 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, which were both sequels with already-established MCU characters. We’ll have to see if Captain Marvel achieves the $400 million domestic gross of Iron Man 3 and Captain Marvel: Civil War, the only two solo movies outside Black Panther to cross that mark… and again, those were both sequels. It will also be interesting to see how Captain Marvel fares oversees.

In some sort of crazy irony, the other movie expected to expand nationwide this weekend is NEON’s Apollo 11 doc by Todd Douglas Miller, about the 1969 moon mission, which opened decently in 120 IMAX theaters last Friday. It will lose those IMAX theaters to Captain Marvel on Thursday night but is still expected to remain in a few hundred theaters, which might be enough to make an appearance in the bottom half of the top 10.

But otherwise, Captain Marvel will dominate over all, as many theaters give up the screens to show the new Marvel movie.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $146.5 million N/A (UP $21.5 million!!!!)*
  2. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation) – $16 million -47%
  3. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Famly Funeral (Lionsgate) – $12.7 million -53%
  4. Alita: Battle Angel  (20thCentury Fox) – $3.5 million -50%
  5. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Bros.) – $3.2 million -52%
  6. Green Book (Universal) – $3 million -36%
  7. Fighting with my Family (MGM) – $2.5 million -47%
  8. Isn’t It Romantic? (New Line/WB) – $2.2 million -53%
  9. Greta (Focus Features) – $2.2 million -52%
  10. What Men Want (Paramount) – $1.4 million -49%

*UPDATE: Doing something I don’t do very often, but when you have a movie like Captain Marvel, you have to take any neew information into account. After seeing some of the ticket sales for the weekend, which weren’t available when I wrote this on Monday, I’ve decided to increase my weekend prediction. I think Thursday will be closer to $20 million or even more based on what I’ve seen… including one theater in NYC that is showing the movie literally every 5 minutes on Thursday night and until well after midnight. With that kind of opening night, Friday is more likely to make in the $60 million range, putting this not too far behind Black Panther in terms of a solo non-sequel Marvel movies.

There’s a few good things getting limited or moderate releases this week including Vincent D’Onofrio’s Western The Kid and Julianne Moore’s new drama Gloria Bell (A24), but we’ll see if either of them has much of an impact opening the same weekend as Captain Marvel.

Next week, we’re back to another slow weekend with two new releases, Paramount’s animated Wonder Park and the Y.A. romance Five Feet Apart.

3 COMMENTS

  1. But trolls on the internet insist nobody will see “Captain Marvel” because Brie Larson has insulted the “fans”!

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