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"The Avengers" Will Be the Next "Star Wars"

Don't look now, but Iron Man 3 broke the $400 million box-office barrier here in the U.S., making it the year's top grossing film and the fourth biggest comic-book adaptation of all time.

Iron Man 3 has soared at theaters around the globe. Source: Marvel Entertainment.

Can anyone touch Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel Studios? Man of Steel has proved to be a winner for Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) DC Entertainment and should close the weekend with about $248 million at the U.S. box office, reports. Audiences seem to like director Zack Snyder's grittier, more realistic version of Superman.

Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIA  ) Paramount Pictures also has two summer hits on its hands. Star Trek Into Darkness recently topped $220 million at the U.S. box office and more than $438 million worldwide. Zombie thriller World War Z, meanwhile, has defied low expectations to earn an estimated $123 million in grosses through its second weekend, Box Office Mojo reports.

All good results, no doubt. But with $1.2 billion already in the can, it's hard to believe anything can top Iron Man 3 at this point -- not even Warner's robots-vs.-aliens mashup, Pacific Rim. I find it more likely that Marvel's Avengers franchise will be the second coming of Star Wars, and propel Disney stock to new highs as a result. Think I'm crazy? Check the numbers:

The Avengers
Star Wars

Total worldwide box office

$5,011.3 million

$4,538.6 million

No. of films in franchise



Worldwide per-film average

$715.9 million

$378.2 million

Domestic average, adjusted for inflation

$311.75 million

$324.86 million

Top film in franchise (worldwide box office)

Marvel's The Avengers ($1,511.8 million)

Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace ($938.6 million)

Source: Box Office Mojo.
*Includes reissued versions of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Pay close attention to the bold text. On a per-film basis and adjusted for inflation, Marvel's Avengers features get within spitting distance of Lucasfilm's Star Wars haul.

To me, that suggests an insatiable demand for Avengers content, and not just at the box office. Fans and investors rejoiced after Disney announced a deal to bring Robert Downey Jr. back for Avengers 2 and 3 as Marvel teases three untitled films for 2016 and 2017. Most expect details at next month's San Diego Comic-Con, which seems likely to draw at least 130,000 fans.

Meanwhile, on the publishing side of the business, Marvel's "Iron Man" title was the 11th-best selling comic book in May, according to data supplied by The Comics Chronicles. Two other Avengers-related titles -- "Age of Ultron" issues 7 and 8 -- cracked the top five.

In TV, social-media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, in partnership with social-TV site The Lost Remote, found Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be the most-talked about new show of the forthcoming fall season. Strong ratings could follow.

So while Star Wars was and still is a classic, the Force is strong with The Avengers right now. Expect Marvel and Disney to cash in, making the stock a buy for those willing to hold through at least 2015, when Avengers 2 makes its debut.

Do you agree? Are you expecting big things on the big screen from Marvel's next Avengers projects? Leave a comment to let us know what you think about the franchise, and whether you'd buy, sell, or short Disney stock at current prices.

Both The Avengers and Star Wars are among the rate film franchises to also rate on television. Who will profit most from delivering these franchises (and others like them) to your living room? An all-out $2.2 trillion media war is under way with cable companies like Cox, Comcast, and Time Warner facing off against technology giants like Apple, Google, and Netflix. The Motley Fool's shocking video presentation reveals the secret Steve Jobs took to his grave, and explains why the only real winners are these three lesser-known power players that film your favorite shows. Click here to watch today!

Read/Post Comments (35) | Recommend This Article (7)

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  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 8:20 PM, Siphon92 wrote:

    As far as the box offices go, probably yes.

    As far as being deeply integrated into our culture? In my opinion, Not quite.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 8:39 PM, delfra wrote:

    Disney is the big winner since they now own the Marvel & Star Wars franchises. I've been saying this since last year, "The Avengers" will be the 'Star Wars' of today, it's huge as is the Marvel Studios franchise as a whole. Look for "Avengers 2" to join "Titanic" & "Avatar" as the only films to gross 2 billion or more at the box office.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 8:43 PM, delfra wrote:

    @Siphon92 - Not yet, I agree with that. But the Marvel franchise is getting there, it's really got people's attention. And the Marvel films are far exceeding fan boy lore, they're reaching out to general audiences all around the globe and sucking them in, it's bascally become a pop culture phenomenon not much different from where the 'Star Wars' franchise was in the early 80's. It will be interesting to see where the Marvel franchise stands 10 years from now.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 8:44 PM, eejit12 wrote:

    I don't see the Advengers starting a religon anytime soon

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 8:50 PM, GalaxyGuardian wrote:

    Let me know when you take into account inflation. Star Wars is the number 2 all time movie based on ticket sales. The Avengers is #27. If you do the adjusted gross. USA - Avengers totalled $609 mil. Star Wars tops out at $1.4 Billion more then double. The current numbers look good, but the truth is nothing can come close to what Star Wars has done.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 8:54 PM, KyleD1994 wrote:

    I'm pretty sure "Star Wars Episode VII" will be the next Star Wars.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 9:26 PM, goatius wrote:

    The fact that you're counting re-releases of the original Star Wars movies as separate movies is incredibly misleading and kinda irresponsible. The Avengers movies on average have not outgrossed the Star Wars movies at all, when the re-release grosses are combined, like they are in every analysis you ever see.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 9:35 PM, Cliffhanger77 wrote:

    I like Star Wars, but let's be real - only the first two movies ("Star Wars" and "Empire Strikes Back") were any good - the rest were unmitigated dreck. With Joss Whedon having created a superbly intelligent and witty first "episode" of The Avengers (far better than anything George Lucas has ever written, frankly) it looks like the Avengers series is in the best of hands. Yes, the fanboys will yap about Star Wars being a "religion," yadda yadda, but in truth it's not -- it's just a couple of enjoyable myth-based movies followed by a bunch of truly awful ones. Avengers, meanwhile, has the potential to be the super-franchise of the 21st century and, if the other Marvel movies can match the smartness and enjoyability of the Iron Man series, it's a franchise that will continue to penetrate the collective consciousness and be the pop culture phenom of our era (and a highly deserving one, at that). I say all this with confidence now that they've gotten Robert Downey Jr. back on board - until then, I wasn't sure, but his presence will vault it into the stratosphere. He is a uniquely charismatic talent and could never have been replaced.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 10:17 PM, redfox435cat wrote:

    I'm a fan of both but seriously, raw numbers are totally unfair. Throw in the adjustment for inflation and star wars will blow the avengers out of the water. Give it a few years and they will be pretty equal when the new new star wars films come out.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 10:34 PM, abecks777 wrote:

    Not to mention the fact that star wars was an epic modern day retelling of the illaid. The avengers is nothing like that. They are just a bunch of poorly made films the studio can crap out for relatively cheap and audience will just keep going to see them. I'm sorry but how dare they compare the avengers to star wars. Star wars was a much much much much better written and produced piece of work than any this marvel craps out. Now with Superman and the justice league...they actually might have a shot...It seems DC takes far better care of their properties and actually make sure they make quality films.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 10:35 PM, jmaster1138 wrote:

    @Cliffhanger77 Let's be real, if you think a big dumb superhero movie like The Avengers is superbly intelligent and witty then your the biggest idiot on the face of the earth. I've written better things in my sleep. You think the Iron Man series is smart and enjoyable, more like stupid and painful. I hope that other young moviegoers like yourself are not as tolerant to the mindless garbage that Disney and Marvel are churning out.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 10:48 PM, ace1g wrote:

    Dollars are always misleading when talking about movies due to the differences in ticket prices. Star Wars episode 4 sold about 180 million ticket by its self. Avengers has only sold about 77 million. You have to add all the Iron Man movies to the Avengers to get 211 million tickets to pass just episode 4. With the huge lead in ticket sales and new star wars movies in the works. I only see the star wars movies expanding on their huge lead on Mavel.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 10:56 PM, penguins6866 wrote:

    cliffhanger, if R. D. Jr. is so important to the franchise then is it really that great? star wars dosnt rely on any great actors yet it is an epic movie that is as relevant now as it was 30 years ago. i truly doubt the same will be said about the iron man movies.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:07 PM, LordSquidworth wrote:

    What happens after Robert Downey Jr. leaves?

    Unlike Star Wars, the Avengers are ultimately put to the level they are because of Iron Man, which is the favorite by leaps and bounds.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:07 PM, Cliffhanger77 wrote:

    You know I speak truth - the ONLY good Star Wars movies were the first two. The rest have all been garbage. How is that a great "series"? It's just not. The last great Star Wars movie was released in 1980! That was 33 YEARS ago. More than an entire generation has grown up since then, and all the rest of the SW movies have been disappointing and far short of the mark, artistically speaking. The Avengers franchise, meanwhile, is the most beloved mythos of our time. It's great to look back 33 years and reminisce how wonderful Star Wars was, but until it proves it can still be relevant and creatively vital by producing critically acclaimed new movies, you really have no argument.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:08 PM, LordSquidworth wrote:

    Ps. Their biggest problem with causing the reliance on R.D. Jr. is they did a relatively terrible job at the other movies.

    Thor... Yawn...

    Captain America... Yawn...


  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:09 PM, LordSquidworth wrote:

    Star Wars was awesome because of how much they could do with it aside from movies, because of it's great breath of content. Just look at video games. I don't foresee that for the avengers.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:18 PM, Cliffhanger77 wrote:

    @abecks777 -- Star Wars was NOT an "epic modern-day retelling of the Iliad" (correct spelling, btw). It did borrow a lot (and at first, very cleverly) from Joseph Campbell's "Hero With a Thousand Faces" and the whole Western understanding of the hero myth cycle. But it was much more a reboot of an actual American Western set in space -- which also has its charms. Lucas failed, however, to see the potential of his own creation. If he had taken it more seriously and passionately, hundreds or even thousands of years from now they could be talking about Star Wars like we talk about Shakespeare or Homer today. But it was not to be. He watered it down and, after "Empire Strikes Back," made it a children's story, aiming at selling more toys -- and not realizing that the best, most lasting children's stories are actually myths written for adults. I was a Star Wars fan, too, until the franchise was diluted and made into a pseudo-cartoon that pandered to children.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:23 PM, quarrelman wrote:

    I think the next movie they should make, should be the book 'Apocalypses Orphan' It has everything in it! Comets, Heros, Knights and Technology. Its an interesting twist on the future earth.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:28 PM, proseiden wrote:

    I know you adjust for inflation, but with the number of tickets sold as a number, Star Wars (any episode) has the most tickets sales of any move every produces including all Marvel movies combined. Pretty easy to find the stats. The writing and depth of new character development in any of the 300+ Star Wars novels blows away Marvel. The only problem now with Star Wars is Disney involvement. Stars Wars is NOT Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney management needs their paws of the film set and story line. Disney, please don't EVEN OPEN STAR WARS with that dopy Castle or any Disney logo, much less their childish music that opens with the Castle and fireworks. Star Wars is an institution as big as Disney and hopefully Disney realizes that.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2013, at 11:37 PM, fubar2k15 wrote:

    I find this article to be full of crap. This author knows nothing about movie franchises. The movies listed are not a movie franchise. The Iron Man movies are the Iron Man franchise. The Thor movies are the Thor franchise. The Captain America movies are the Captain America franchise. The Hulk movies are the Hulk franchise. Lastly, the Avengers movies are their own separate Avengers franchise. Those 5 separate franchises are not one complete franchise just because they're part of this Marvel movie universe. Also, why compare to Star Wars when the 8 Harry Potter movies, an actual franchise like Star Wars, is the highest grossing franchise.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 12:17 AM, tripz1196 wrote:

    Wow...i thought the xbox/ps4 debate was fanboyish...this one just blows it out of the wars and the avengers are two different movies...they just wanted to make a point about it since both share some similarities in terms of numbers...some of you need to take your lightsabers and iron man suits and check it at the door when posting at a site like this...this is not comic con

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 12:31 AM, Fizbin666 wrote:

    Not possible. I've only seen Iron Man 1 and thought it sucked. I've seen all the Star Wars movies one hundred times over. (Well, except Phantom Mess)

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 1:48 AM, Rigghton1 wrote:

    I'm more interested in the transgender sexual battery and libel case v. the supervising art director of recent

    Iron Man and Spider Man films than any alleged quality of these crummy films.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 3:21 AM, hawkzilla wrote:

    While i agree with @fubar2k15 that it isnt technically the same franchise i can see why the author did it. also, why all of a sudden in the last few years has worldwide box office become the holy grail when before you never heard about it. obviously its about being able to quote the biggest dollar amount. using that basis doesnt really work because 30 years ago movies were not marketed as widely or as vigorously or to as many markets as they are now.

    but anyway some numbers. domestic gross (inflation adjusted) and all time ranks in that category

    star wars 1-6 (all releases) @ 4.4 billion

    ranks: 1, 5, 6, 8, 28, 44

    avengers titles (7 titles) @ 2 billion

    ranks 12, 46, 70, 101, 347, 366, 496

    there seems to be a clear winner in this fight.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 4:20 AM, hawkzilla wrote:

    and not to belabour the point, but if you wanted to go worldwide gross. the 5 billion stated for avengers titles is correct, and you could expect to add about 100 to 150 million in inflation worldwide, rounding up that gives it about 5.2 billion worldwide inflation adjusted.

    with star wars, while i couldnt find any real, or at least accurate numbers at all on the foreign markets that were adjusted for inflation. you could take the domestic inflation adjusted number of 4.4 billion and add the total amount the movies made in foreign markets to that. star wars made @ 2 billion in foregin markets at the time of the releases which give 6.4 billion total. add to that a conservative 1 billion in inflation for a total of 7.4 billion worldwide inflation adjusted.

    so star wars still comes out on top.

    but the main reason that star wars will always be the greatest movie franchise of all time regardless of numbers or ticket sales is that we are talking about movies.

    star wars came out of nowhere and was totally organic and word of mouth. there were no hugely popular books or comic books that people had been reading for 50 years in the case of Lord of the Rings and the Avengers titles, or the best selling kids books of all time in harry potter. those book franchises already had a fan base of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, so the movies had better make a crap load of money.

    but the movie that adjusted for inflation has made more than double any of the other movies mentioned, star wars. started with a fan base of ZERO before the movie came out and still blew everything else away.

    sorry for going on and on, its late, im an insomniac and im bored.

    but for a little trivia to finish up. the highest grossing movies of all time (domestic inflation adjusted) are:

    1. Gone with the Wind - 1.61 billion

    2. Star Wars - 1.41 billion

    3. The Sound of Music - 1.13 billion

    4. E.T. - 1.12 billion

    5. Titanic - 1.07 billion

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 4:39 AM, hawkzilla wrote:

    lol, also. as @ goatius said. counting all the star wars re-releases as seperate movies in his calculations is incredibly misleading and kinda irresponsible. so while the author wants us to pay attention to the bold text, here are those numbers when calculated correctly.

    star wars - 4.4 billion / 6 films = 728 million

    avengers - 2.2 billion / 7 films = 313 million

    not really that close, just saying

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 9:50 AM, theStrawboss wrote:

    Avengers might be a powerhouse, but no one cares about the characters like in Star Wars. Who was Luke to Leia? Who is Luke's father? Will Darth sacrifice his son? Obi, Han, even R2. We cared about the story of those characters. While Tony is hilarious, no one really feels his plight or cares about him, much less the other characters. We just wanna see them kick butt. And that is the major difference between the two.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 2:26 PM, MaxCat12 wrote:

    @theStrawboss - Actually, the Avengers movies have one of the strongest fandoms on the Internet, with bloggers, fanfiction and art all completely engaged with who the characters are, their backgrounds and their motivations. It is entirely akin to Star Wars in this way - just check out Tumblr, LiveJournal or DeviantArt on any given day and you can see all the Avengers-related creations. This is one of the strongest indicators for the future of the series - the depth of fan engagement, and Avengers has that in excelsis. Even more so than Star Wars right now, which is considered kind of an old property (like from before the birth of many active fans), although it certainly still does have fans, writers and artists - it's just kind of on repeat right now, while Avengers is new and vital and just starting. Maybe when the new Star Wars comes out it will sort of reboot the series, the way the new Star Trek rebooted that one. I personally have written a lot of Tony Stark fanfiction that "feels his plight" and "cares about him" - he's one of the most complex characters in fandom right now, with a huge backstory and a lot of compelling emotion that we can tap into. And you will find thousands of other Avengers fans doing the same.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 2:45 PM, MaxCat12 wrote:

    Let's just agree that there are fans of Star Wars and fans of Avengers, and you can't really compare them fairly, because Star Wars has been around for almost 40 years and Avengers is really just starting. They both have huge followings and loyal fans, and arguments about which is "better" or has more fans are just circular and get nowhere. This article was about the financials, and both movie series will be ultra-strong in this. All good for Disney!

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 8:28 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:


    >>Let me know when you take into account inflation.

    Already done. Per the table above: "Domestic average, adjusted for inflation"

    Thanks for writing and Foolish best,



    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 8:30 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:


    >>Throw in the adjustment for inflation and star wars will blow the avengers out of the water.

    Again, already done thanks to the good folks at Box Office Mojo, and the Avengers are still very much in the water.

    Foolish best,



    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 8:32 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:


    >>The fact that you're counting re-releases of the original Star Wars movies as separate movies is incredibly misleading and kinda irresponsible.

    Then, respectfully your beef is with the folks at Box Office Mojo. I don't consider them to be irresponsible in the least.

    Foolish best,



    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 9:43 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:


    >>The Iron Man movies are the Iron Man franchise. The Thor movies are the Thor franchise. The Captain America movies are the Captain America franchise. The Hulk movies are the Hulk franchise.

    No, I'm sorry but that's incorrect.

    Marvel set up and sold the six movies in the "Avengers" franchise as exactly that. The collected work is called "Avengers Assembled."

    Just as important, this is very same setup both Marvel and DC use in the comics. The "Superman" franchise is Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, and several other titles. The "Batman" franchise includes a whole family of other characters. The "X-Men" franchise over at Marvel also includes several books and characters.

    The "Avengers" is Marvel's franchise, and while it hasn't reached "Star Wars" scale, it is growing impressively and worthy of the comparison, IMHO.

    Thanks for writing and Foolish best,



    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2013, at 11:11 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Let's end with a fun note. "Star Wars" is well known for its music, and rightfully so. John Williams is a master composer.

    But I also think there's a *lot* of great compositions in the "Avengers" franchise. This one, from Brian Tyler and "Iron Man 3," might be my favorite:

    Foolish best,



    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

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