MARVEL MAY -- 4/24/17


Marvel May: The merry month of May has been all the merrier at the boxoffice for the past decade thanks to Marvel Studios.

Since 2007, Marvel's used the first weekend in May to launch comic book driven fantasy action adventure blockbusters that have dominated early summer.

Marvel arguably created the early summer as a distinct sub-season that it now owns. Historically, Hollywood kicked off summer in late May with the long Memorial Day holiday weekend. Thanks to Marvel, the entire month of May was turned into a consistently hot month at the multiplexes.

Wile Memorial Day is still a key release date, it no longer has the distinction of ushering in the first really big films to quench moviegoers' thirst after the mostly dry weeks of early spring (a current exception being "Fate of the Furious" with $163.6 million domestically after two weekends).

History's expected to repeat itself in about two weeks when Disney and Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" opens domestically May 5 to what Hollywood handicappers believe will be around $150 million.

The franchise's first episode arrived Aug. 1, 2014 to $94.3 million and did $333.2 million domestically. It did another $440.2 million internationally. This was, of course, phenomenal success for a film based on a comic book that wasn't a familiar top tier Marvel property. Moreover, "GG" revolved around a team of intergalactic criminal misfits who must save the planet rather than the customary crew of superheroes.

Positioning "GG2" to blast off in the May 5 slot that unofficially starts the ssummer movie season clearly reflects Marvel and Disney's expectations that this now prime franchise can make the most of the enviable opportunity. And a good indication that competing studios think they're right is that nothing else is opening wide May 5.

"GG2" seems a safe bet to deliver the boxoffice goods. Directed and written by James Gunn ("Guardians of the Galaxy"), it stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan and Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell.

This time around the Guardians must fight to keep their new family together while solving the mystery of Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) true parentage.

Meanwhile, there was news last week from James Gunn via Facebook that he will return to write and direct the franchise's next episode, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." Its stars will include: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana), Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.   

Reflecting on "GG's" characters, Gunn said he feels, "They have more adventures to go on and things to learn about themselves and the wonderful and sometimes terrifying universe we all inhabit. And, like in both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, we will work on creating the story that goes beyond what you expect.

"There is a history in Hollywood of haphazard endings to trilogies, and I didn't want to become a part of that dishonorable tradition of pretending the third one doesn't exist. I couldn’t do it for the money, and I couldn't do it because it was what other people wanted me to do. I needed to do it because it was what I needed to do. I have never made choices in my career based on anything other than passion and love for the stories and characters, and I didn’t want to start now."

He noted that "GG3" will follow "Avengers: Infinity War, " which is opening next May 4 and will feature some Guardians characters.

"It will conclude the story of this iteration of the 'Guardians of the Galaxy,'" he wrote, "and help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next 10 years and beyond."

While that's something to look ahead to, for now let's look back at how Marvel's early May blockbusters have performed since 2007:


(1) "Captain America: Civil War"

OPENING DAY: May 5, 2016

STUDIO: Disney/Marvel

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR:  Anthony Russo & Joe Russo ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier")

STARS: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo and Martin Freeman with William Hurt and Daniel Bru?hl.

DOMESTIC OPENING: $179.1 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $408.1 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $745.2 million

NOTES: The series' first episode, "Captain America: The First Avenger," opened July 22, 2011 via Paramount to $65.1 million and did $176.7 million domestically.

The second episode, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," opened via Disney Apr. 4, 2014 to $95 million and did $259.8 million domestically.

The better comparison for "War" is Marvel and Disney's "Avengers" franchise since "War" is an "Avengers" type mash-up of Marvel characters – including Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Ant Man and Spider-Man. Marvel and Disney's  PG-13 rated 3D fantasy action adventure "Avengers: Age of Ultron" opened May 1, 2015  (see below).


(2) "Avengers: Age of Ultron"

OPENING DAY: May 1, 2015

STUDIO: Disney/Marvel

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon ("The Avengers")

STARS: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle

DOMESTIC OPENING: $191.3 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $459 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $946.4 million

NOTES: "Ultron's" title but not its storyline came from a 2013 Marvel comic series called "Age of Ultron." As Marvel president and production chief Kevin Feige explained: "We came up with a few titles, but every month a new comic book appears and 'Age Of Ultron' is a great title. We had a few other 'Of Ultrons,' but that was the best one. So we're borrowing that title, but taking storylines from decades of Avengers storylines."

The franchise's much anticipated next episode, "Avengers: Infinity War," is scheduled to open May 4, 2018 via Disney and Marvel.

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo ("Captain America: Civil War"), its stars include: Brie Larson, Scarlett Johansson, Vin Diesel, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Zoe Saldana.

Another as yet untitled "Avengers" episode, also to be directed by  Anthony & Joe Russo, is scheduled to open May 3, 2019.


(3) "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"

OPENING DAY: May 2, 2014

STUDIO: Columbia/Marvel

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Marc Webb ("The Amazing Spider-Man")

STARS: Andrew Garfield (as Spidey and Peter Parker), Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx

DOMESTIC OPENING: $91.6 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $202.9 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $506.1 million

NOTES: This certainly wasn't Spidey's greatest boxoffice success. It ended the short lived "Amazing Spider-Man" franchise, but led to the upcoming series reboot, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," opening this July 7, for which there are high hopes.

Directed by Jon Watts ("Cop Car"),"Homecoming" stars Tom Holland as Spidey and Peter Parker, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and Tony Stark (a smart Marvel Cinematic Universe cross-pollination move that should work well with Marvel fans).

Holland was introduced as Spidey in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," in which Downey appeared as Iron Man. Holland was just 19 when "War" was shot, making him the youngest actor ever to play Spider-Man.

In auditioning for Spidey at the time, Holland beat-out Charlie Plummer ("King Jack"), who was only 17 then and, therefore, would have had to work reduced hours per child actor labor laws.

Columbia and Marvel teamed up creatively to make "Homecoming," which is reflected in the reboot's high profile producer credits – Amy Pascal, former Columbia chairman; and Kevin Feige, Marvel's president and production chief.


(4) "Iron Man 3"

OPENING DAY: May 3, 2013

STUDIO: Disney/Marvel/Paramount

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Shane Black ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang")

STARS: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce

DOMESTIC OPENING: $174.1 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $409 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $805.8 million

NOTES: The first two "IM" episodes were distributed domestically by Paramount and were directed by Jon Favreau ("The Jungle Book"). Favreau opted not to direct "IM 3," but he did appear in it for the third time as the character Happy Hogan.

In what should rank as one of the smartest moves in Hollywood maybe ever, Disney purchased the domestic distribution rights to both "IM" and "The Avengers" (see below) from Paramount for $115 million. As part of that deal, the Paramount logo still played at the start of both movies.


(5) "The Avengers"

OPENING DAY: May 4, 2012

STUDIO: Disney/Marvel/Paramount

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon (the recently announced "Batgirl")

STARS: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner

DOMESTIC OPENING: $207.4 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $623.4 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $895.5 million

NOTES: With about $1.5 billion in global grosses, "Avengers" was Marvel's first title to break the $1 billion mark. It also became the top grossing comic book driven movie at the time, sailing past "The Dark Knight's" global cume of $1.005 billion in 2008.

Although in the movie Captain America is a founding member of the Avengers group, in the comic book series he was accidentally found in issue number four as they were searching for Prince Namor  --  aka the Sub-Mariner, an anti-hero defender of the sea world against mankind.

There have been rumors recently that Marvel is developing a "Sub-Mariner" movie, having re-acquired rights to the comic that had been dormant for years at Universal. The Sub-Mariner character originated in 1939 with Timely Comics, some 20 years before Marvel materialized. Namor was the son of a princess from Atlantis and a mortal man.

There's another underwater theme comic book project already in the works at Warner Bros. and DC  Comics based on the comic series "Aquaman." Directed by James Wan (the "Insidious" and "Conjuring" franchises), it stars Jason Momoa (as the super-hero Aquaman, the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis), Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard, and is scheduled to open Dec. 21, 2018.


(6) "Thor"

OPENING DAY: May 6, 2011

STUDIO: Marvel/Paramount

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh ("Sleuth")

STARS: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård

DOMESTIC OPENING: $65.7 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $181 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $268.3 million

NOTES: Thor, the God of Thunder, was not one of Marvel's prime superheroes and wasn't a popular character when the movie went into production. Nonetheless, it spawned a new hit franchise for Marvel.

"Thor: The Dark World" opened Nov. 8, 2013 via Disney and Marvel to $85.7 million and did $206.4 million domestically. It did $438.2 million internationally.

A third episode, "Thor: Ragnarok" is scheduled to open this Nov. 3 from Disney and Marvel. Directed by Taika Waititi ("What We Do in the Shadows"), it stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tessa Thompson and Jaimie Alexander.

 In "Thor," Jeremy Renner made an uncredited cameo preview appearance as his "Avengers" character Hawkeye. "Avengers" opened the following May 4 (see above).

Chris Hemsworth's chief competition to be cast as Thor was his brother Liam Hemsworth, who wound up being cast in "The Hunger Games" franchise instead.


(7) "Iron Man 2"

OPENING DAY: May 7, 2010

STUDIO: Marvel/Paramount

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau ("Cowboys & Aliens")

STARS: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson

DOMESTIC OPENING: $128.1 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $312.4 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $311. 5 million

NOTES: This was director Jon Favreau's last "IM" episode. There was much speculation at the time as to why he split with the hit franchise. Some reports insisted it reflected conflicts during production with Marvel production head Kevin Feige while other accounts claimed the clashes were with Robert Downey, Jr. Other stories maintained it was all about money and that Favreau's asking price was now way more than Marvel was willing to pay.

In the end, no one really knows what happened. At the time, Favreau was quoted as saying rather vaguely:

"Marvel and I both came of age together. The years that we shared were a pivotal experience. Kevin has a firm grasp on the many franchises and how they all interweave and I am happy that I had the opportunity to establish the world that these characters can now play in…

"'Iron Man' has given me tremendous opportunities and Kevin and I are enjoying a lot of momentum in our careers thanks to the 'Iron Man' films. I look forward to seeing what others can do playing in the same world."

"IM2" wasn't one of Marvel's best received films. It scored an okay 72 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The original "IM" did much better with 94 percent. "IM3" did a little better than "IM2" with 79 percent

"IM2" also wasn't a knockout internationally. Its $311.5 million gross was about $900,000 less than its domestic cume of $312.4 million. "IM3" did much better with $805.8 million internationally, an increase of $396.8 million over its domestic cume of $409 million. While the international marketplace did grow quite a bit in the three years between the two episodes, "IM2" still seems a little anemic internationally.


(8) "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" 

OPENING DAY: May 1, 2009

STUDIO: Marvel/20th Century Fox

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Gavin Hood ("Eye in the Sky")

STARS: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Danny Huston, Will.i.am, Ryan Reynolds

DOMESTIC OPENING: $85.1 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $179.9 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $193.2 million

NOTES: "Origins" was pirated and made available online on March 31, 2009. This un-watermarked pirated copy of the movie differed in a number of ways from the finished version of the film. By the time "Origins" opened in theatres, the pirated version had been downloaded some 4.5 million times.

"Origins" reportedly was a difficult production with creative clashes between director Gavin Hood and Fox.

Shortly before "Origins" opened, Marvel published a one-shot comic book, "Wolverine: Weapon X Files," profiling many of the movie's characters -- not all of whom actually were involved with Weapon X in the comics and some of whom were significantly different in the movie than in the comics.


(9) "Iron Man"

OPENING DAY: May 2, 2008

STUDIO: Marvel/Paramount

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau ("Elf")

STARS: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges

DOMESTIC OPENING: $98.6 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $318.4 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $266.8 million

NOTES: When production got underway, the screenplay for "IM" still hadn't been finished. As a result, much of the film's dialogue was reportedly improvised on camera, giving the movie a more natural feeling. Favreau used two cameras to shoot some sequences so he could get coverage of ad-libbed lines and the reactions to them.

"Iron Man" comic book creator Stan Lee reportedly based his  Tony Stark character on the legendary Howard Hughes. Lee's been quoted as saying Hughes was, "One of the most colorful men of our time -- an inventor, an adventurer, a multimillionaire, a ladies man and finally a nutcase."

In the "IM" comics, Tony Stark turned into Iron Man during the Vietnam War, but for the movie Vietnam was contemporized to the Gulf War with the character's origins in Afghanistan to keep the film from being a period piece.

"IM" was the first film in what was supposed to have been a six-picture deal between Marvel and Paramount. After Disney acquired Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, distribution rights to "The Avengers" (2012) and "Iron Man 3" (2013) went to Disney. Paramount retained the rights to "Iron Man 2" (2010), "Thor" (2011) and "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011).


(10) "Spider-Man 3"

OPENING DAY: May 4, 2007

STUDIO: Marvel/Columbia

GENRE:  PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi fantasy action thriller

DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi ("Spider-Man," "Spider-Man 2")

STARS: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris

DOMESTIC OPENING: $151.1 million

DOMESTIC CUME: $336.5 million

INTERNATIONAL CUME: $554.3 million

NOTES: "SM3" opened in 4,252 theaters, which at the time made it the widest domestic movie release ever. The previous record-holder, "Shrek 2 ," had opened May 19, 2004 at 4,163 theatres and expanded May 28 to 4,223 theaters. "SM3's" record was beaten three weeks later by "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," which opened May 25, 2007 at 4,362 theaters.

"SM3" was 2007's top grossing domestic release, hammering home the advantage that a big comic book driven movie could have by kicking off the pre-summer movie season. Marvel realized the high value of this release schedule real estate and has since made it its own.

This was a major change from 2006 when Marvel and 20th Century Fox's "X-Men: The Last Stand" ended the month rather than beginning it.

"Stand" arrived May 26, 2006 for the four day Memorial Day holiday weekend and did $102.8 million. It wound up with $234.4 million domestically and did $225 million internationally.

Early May 2006's big film was "Mission: Impossible III" from Paramount and Cruise/Wagner Productions. It opened May 5 to $47.7 million and did $134 million domestically. It also did $263.8 million internationally.

         Bottom line: Last weekend was a chilly one at the spring boxoffice as three wide openings failed to blossom.

         Universal and Original Films' PG-13 rated action crime thriller "Fate of the Furious" held on to first place in its second weekend with $38.7 million and a domestic cume of $163.6 million.

         "Fate's" international cume is $744.8 million. That gives it a global cume of $908.4 million, per comScore, putting it on track to crack $1 billion worldwide this week.

         Disney's G rated documentary "Born in China" opened fourth to an okay $5.1 million. Warner Bros. and DiNovi Pictures' R rated thriller "Unforgettable" arrived forgettably in seventh place to $4.8 million. And Open Road Films and Survival Pictures' PG-13 rated historical drama "The Promise" opened quietly in ninth place to $4.1 million. 

         Not surprisingly, last weekend's $110 million in domestic ticket sales was down, per comScore, 14.1 percent from $128.1 million this time last year when "The Jungle Book" was first with $61.5 million in its second weekend.

         This year's $3.597 billion boxoffice to date, according to comScore, is up 5.2 percent vs. $3.420 billion a year ago. A week earlier, 2017 was up 6.1 percent. It was ahead 5.5 percent in comScore's tracking the prior weekend.