How Fantastic Was "Silver Surfer"?

News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) new film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, was the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office this past weekend. News Corp. shareholders might be pleased to hear that, but the news is even more relevant to shareholders of Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: MVL  ) . That's because Surfer is a licensed product from the Marvel empire, and its success should have more of an effect on the smaller Marvel. So, "No. 1" means that everything went well, right?

Well, not exactly, at least in my opinion. According to Boxfficemojo.com, Surfer took in $58 million. That was certainly good enough to beat other projects such as Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) hip hit Ocean's 13, DreamWorks Animation's (NYSE: DWA  ) computer-generated Shrek the Third, and General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) comedy Knocked Up. Sadly, beating Lions Gate Entertainment's (NYSE: LGF  ) Hostel: Part II was a given.

What disappointed me is that this $58 million opening isn't too far off from the debut performance of the first Fantastic Four film that was released a couple of years ago. That picture took in roughly $56 million in its first weekend in release. It also had a higher per-theater average at approximately $15,600 -- in comparison, the Surfer sequel's per-theater average was around $14,700.

I was also disappointed by the first Fantastic Four. In my article at the time, I didn't like that the movie's opening take was weaker than Hulk's. Some people didn't agree with that assessment; in fact, a friend of mine constantly reminds me that he felt that there was nothing wrong with the opening. Funny thing is, though, it's two years later and Mr. Fantastic et al. still couldn't make it past the $60 million mark. (I should definitely note, however, that Fantastic Four's ultimate domestic gross of $155 million did beat Hulk's take of $132 million.)  

I thought a sequel would have been worth a bigger opening. Maybe Fox didn't market hard enough; maybe we have to accept that the Fantastic Four franchise just doesn't have as big an appeal as other tentpole products and will never reach the cinematic heights of X-Men (forget about reaching the cinematic heights of Spider-Man). I'm a stickler for maximizing the first three days at bat, since a movie's exhibition timeline is extremely front-loaded these days -- the risk of steep drop-offs during subsequent summer weekends is omnipresent.

We'll have to wait to see what the drop-off is next weekend. For now, I'll concede that the film is doing reasonably well, but I do have to say that I was looking for higher growth in terms of demand for this franchise. As a Marvel shareholder, I want to see higher opening weekends as time goes on, especially since the company is now producing its own films. If you are a Marvel shareholder, you will want to read Tim Beyers' excellent analysis of the company's potential valuation based on its new movie-making model.

More Takes on the mighty Marvel:

Marvel, DreamWorks Animation, and Time Warner are members of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation list. Sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service with no obligation whatsoever. The Gardner brothers can help you build a long-term, wealth-building portfolio.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of General Electric and Marvel Entertainment. As of this writing, he was ranked 9,348 out of 30,544 rated players in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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