Comic Book Box Office Examined
Comic books turned into motion pictures tend to be expensive exercises given the need to create costumes, simulate super-powers and make things sufficiently larger than life to appeal to filmgoers of all ages.
The traditional rule of thumb is that a movie has to earn three times its budget in domestic revenue to be considered profitable. This way, the cost of production, backend money to producers and performers and marketing costs could be recouped. After all, studios receive a sliding scale percentage of the box office gross. For example, if a movie opens with $100 million that first weekend, chances are the studio sees a hefty percentage, anywhere from 50-80% of that income and as time passes, the ratio between studio and theater change so by week 12 (should a movie last that long), the theater gets the lion’s share. Which helps explain why popcorn costs $5 a bucket – theaters need to earn profit somehow.
International box office as well as ancillary income (pay-per-view, hotels/airplane sales, home video/video downloads, related licensing) was always considered gravy. Over the last few years, with movie theater attendance stagnant or down, studios have crowed about being profitable by counting all the money now.
So, with all but one of this year’s comic book related films now showing, we here at Comic Mix thought it worth taking a peek at how well the films have performed. The numbers below show the box office income to date followed by their production budget. (Marketing costs are an additional $20-40 million depending on film.)
Ghost Rider, $115,802,596 / $110,000,000
300, $210,250,922 / $65,000,000
TMNT, $42,273,609 / $34,000,000
Spider-Man 3, $330,021,137 to date / $258,000,000
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, $58,051,684 (opening weekend) / $130,000,000
Stardust, August 10
So, from the top, Ghost Rider should have earned $330,000,000 in domestic box office to recoup costs and be profitable. Instead, it came up short but given how it was received, how it did around the world and how much licensing it brought it, Sony can consider it a hit, albeit a modest one.
Spider-Man 3, despite a critical drubbing, is nowhere near close to ever being profitable. Unless you look at the international numbers which has it at $800,000,000 with a bullet and will clearly make money for Sony and Marvel.
On the other hand, the all-CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a flop for New Line. It did not stimulate toy and related merchandise sales nor did it generate any real buzz for the property.
The one movie to succeed in the traditional model was 300, which earned something like $30,000,000 in box office profit before taking in any wordwide box office income or licensing revenue. Kudos to Zack Snyder and now we know why studios are willing to gamble on him in the future (which is good news for us since his next two films should be Watchmen and Ronin).
And here’s our schedule scoreboard for the future:
Wanted, March 28
Iron Man, May 2
Incredible Hulk, June 13
Dark Knight, July 18
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, August 1
2009 & Beyond
Superman Returns 2, June 2009 (may be delayed until 2010)
Sin City 2, no date
Watchmen, no date
Captain America, no date