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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Captain of Commerce: Lessons Learned From Disney’s Box Office Triumph

Even with their overwhelming popularity and consistent box office dominance, there is still plenty of skepticism toward comic book movies. The fact that they are still primarily referred to as “comic book movies” is proof in and of itself that these films are considered to be more of a subset of the Action genre (much like Rom-Coms are subsets of Comedies). However, while there is still the question of sustaining their popularity, there is no denying that these movies are breaking ground in ways that may have many actors and film-makers reconsidering how they choose which projects to work on in the future.

Besides the obvious box office success, there is also the very real possibility of having work or opening the door for various avenues of work in the immediate future. Just look at what Disney/Marvel Studios have done to the market, in particular with their recent franchise sequel: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which I shall refer to as TWS). Already past the $500 million mark worldwide, the sequel to Marvel’s 2011 release is poised to dominate the rest of the month at #1 (the next competitor will probably come from Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2). But looking past the box office totals, the movie also did more than just dress Chris Evans up in his star-spangled uniform to throw his trademark shield around. Marvel Studios, and more importantly Disney, solidified its blueprint for franchise sustainability within 136 minutes.


After The Avengers, many people wondered if consistently making movies with interwoven stories would be successful, especially with the less popular characters. However, TWS does just that and in doing so, created various contingencies for future films in the franchise. And there is the first key – contingencies.

Sebastian Stan from Captain America

Image Credit: Marvel/Disney

Every business needs contingencies, and the movie world is no different. After all, now a days, it’s rare not to see a popular film get a sequel. Heck, even the ones that in all honesty aren’t even that good (I’m looking at you X-Men Origins) get a second go-around. However, in the case of the just mentioned Wolverine flick, what would happen if you took out the enormously popular Hugh Jackman and replace him with…well anyone. Would anybody have went to the see The Wolverine? Maybe if the film rights had reverted back to Marvel Studios, you mean? My suspicion is that Fox’s general focus on Jackman has done much to carry the character and that franchise to where there’s a strong possibility that he may be unable to be recast. How does that effect Fox’s X-Men Franchise and solo Wolverine films, having so much invested into this solitary character (and actor)?

Meanwhile, TWS invited the general audience to learn more about already seen characters (like Nick Fury and Black Widow), get introduced to new characters (Agent 13, Falcon and Agent Rumlow), as well as discovering intriguing story-lines that could possibly be explored in further installments. SPOILERS: What’s going to happen with Bucky/The Winter Soldier, Did Cap really destroy SHIELD/HYDRA, and will Rumlow show up again? There is already an invested interest for Black Widow to get her own solo bow, but what about a Falcon and Cap team-up? Or a Bucky stand-alone film/prequel? Nick Fury or HYDRA? All of these are viable contingencies for Disney/Marvel Studios to use if necessary, as the audience is given time to invest in their individual stories.

Why is this important? Let’s say that Chris Evans changes his mind and does retire from acting, what then? Well, comic fans will know of a certain story arc that sees Crossbones (aka Brock Rumlow) kill Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), paving the way for Bucky (aka The Winter Solider) to take over his fallen friends mantle – contingencies created by TWS. The Captain America franchise lives on.

Continual and Consistent Marketing

Is there such thing as too much marketing? Not really, as the more people you reach on a daily basis will presumably grow the average interest of your product. Many of us get tired of the same commercials interrupting our various programs, that we don’t even catch ourselves humming their jingles while we’re in the shower. Movie marketing works off the same premise. The marketing team already knows that the “diehards” are going to watch their movie, regardless. All of the commercials and promos are targeted at the average viewer, or general audience, to get them hooked. That is where the money is.

Agents of SHIELD Lineup

ABC’s Agents of SHIELD (Image Credit: ABC/Disney/Marvel)

For the most part, every comic book movie is heavily marketed, TWS was no different. From TV to radio, even Spotify ads, we are exposed to the studio’s marketing in the weeks leading up to a film’s release. But just imagine if there were some kind of pay-off attached (other than an enjoyable movie of course). TWS and the TV show, Agents of SHIELD (AOS) worked in tandem to market each other, creating an interesting way of running a marketing campaign. I have seen a ton of their ads, including this one which promised a “coming shift” to the Marvel Universe after teasing that there would be a TWS crossover. After the movie, Agents of SHIELD aired its tie-in episode, “Turn,Turn, Turn” which saw the entire makeup of the TV show change dramatically.

While the ratings have been pedestrian at times, they did rise this past week while the stories and overall likability of the show have risen in the months prior to TWS release. Who does that help? Marvel Studios and TWS of course, and with an hour long program airing interconnected stories to that of a the box office smash, the possibilities for an even greater general audience are pretty positive – especially when the show lasts a whole 17-25 episode season (and don’t forget about re-runs). It will always be hard to tell whether TWS got a bigger boost from AOS or The Avengers, but with Marvel Studio’s signature #itsallconnected as any indication, most people won’t want to “miss out” on part of the story – wherever it may be coming from.

Lion King Hail Hydra

Just one of the many memes circulating the web. (Image Credit: Disney)

That’s also not to mention announcing that the ‘3quel’ will go “toe-to-toe” with what many consider to be Marvel’s only rival, DC/WB’s Batman vs Superman. As of right now, neither studio is changing their release date, but the hype of the world’s largest “nerd fight” can only help push more people to see the movie currently in theaters.

And that’s also not to mention the latest internet trend – the #hailhydra meme

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, most businesses care about making a profit. Did my product make more than I spent to create/market/display said product? It is the coldest question to ask, but also the easiest question to answer. In the case of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it has already made half a billion in total theater earnings (as of Thursday) and will most likely double the earnings of its predecessor by the end of the month. For a movie that cost $170 million to make, that’s an emphatic “Yes”.

Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson

Image Credit: Marvel/Disney

When you take whatever money comes from merchandising and future DVD sales, this kind of theater pull is every studio’s dream come true.

All of these things need to happen in order to succeed in creating a sustainable product. If you itemize the movies from Disney/Marvel Studios, the Captain America brand has reached that level of sustainability that the studio can only hope to duplicate throughout the rest of their franchises. Of course, it should be no surprise that Disney is the force behind such a great campaign. After all, the company still makes money from 30-plus-year-old movies just by threatening to “put them in the vault” one day.

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