Will 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Hurt 'X-Men' and 'Spider-Man' at the Box Office?

Source: Marvel.com

The pull of superheroes at the box office has never been stronger. The trend kicked off way back in 2000 with the then-impressive debut of Twenty-First Century Fox's (NASDAQ: FOXA  )  X-Men comic-to-film adaptation and was kicked into full gear by Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) incredibly successful Spider-Man. Leadership in the superhero space shifted once again as Time Warner reinvented Batman and delivered a landmark sequel with 2008's The Dark Knight.

Now, it's clear that Marvel and Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) are the players to beat in the superhero game, with its 2012 ensemble actioner The Avengers currently standing as the third highest grossing film of all time. Even more impressive, Disney has endowed each member of its super-team with explosive box-office potential and brought incredible value to its expanse of Marvel properties. Will the impressive draw of Captain America: The Winter Soldier dampen the performance of Sony's Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Fox's X-Men Days of Future Past?

Captain America is no longer a second-tier hero

Not long ago, the idea of a Captain America movie surpassing $800 million in global box office take would have been laughed at by industry prognosticators. Now, it's looking like Captain America: The Winter Soldier will do just that. The movie's incredible success could also threaten big projects from rival studios. The coming weeks look to test the filmgoing public's voracious appetite for superheroes. The box office performance of the newest X-Men and Spider-Man films should provide an insight into the threshold for superhero saturation.

Sony and Fox look to get more out of their comics assets

With the exception of Avatar, "X-Men" is Fox's most valuable action property. "Spider-Man" edges out the "Bond" series for the status of Sony's most valuable film holding. Both studios are hoping that their new superhero movies will help create the type of interconnected universe that Marvel and Disney have built. Fox has stated that it is looking into developing solo films built around X-Men characters Gambit and Mystique, while Sony has spin-offs built around Venom and The Sinister Six (from the Spider-Man universe) in the works.

So many heros, so little time?

In terms of blockbuster superhero movies, there has never been a more stacked two-month window than the one we're seeing this year. Winter Soldier gave its opening bow on April 4, Amazing Spider-Man 2 will hit American theaters on May 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past  launches on May 23. Prior to Captain America's big screen return, the last major superhero movie released was Disney's Thor: The Dark World, which opened Nov. 8, 2013. The Winter Soldier likely benefited from a brief lull in superhero releases, a condition that Spider-Man and X-Men won't enjoy.

Source: TheAmazingSpiderMan.com

Close proximity to Captain America's explosive return could definitely hurt Sony's Spider-Man ambitions. The "Amazing" series was already off to a bit of a rough start, bringing in the lowest numbers of Sony's four modern Spider-Man films and establishing a questionable foundation for an expanded universe.

Reception to the first "Amazing" may have been mixed, but the second looked to have a good shot of delivering growth for the rebooted series. Comic book diehards and fans of action films will still pack the theaters for the latest Spider-film, but more casual fans of superhero movies may be sated by Cap's most recent outing and choose not to show up for the webhead.

X-Men will have to weather the storm

If superhero saturation kicks in, X-Men: Days of Future Past looks to release in an undesirable position. The film will likely go on to become the best grossing release in the series and substantially improve on recent entry The Wolverine's approximately $415 million global take. A return to a more ensemble-oriented structure and the film's incredible cast should drive the film to impressive returns. Still, even with the talents of Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender, Ellen Page, and Hugh Jackman behind the film, Days of Future Past is looking weaker than it did a month ago.

Source:X-MenMovies.com

Big releases in the "Captain America" and "Amazing Spider-Man" series could take away from the specialness of Fox's massively scoped X-Men picture. The time-traveling actioner relies in part on the appeal of returning characters not seen since 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand. The flashy heroics of more recently visible characters could distract from what might have otherwise been an "event" film.

Days of Future Past's box office fate is also threatened by an unfolding scandal that sees director Bryan Singer accused of long-running sexual abuse. These factors won't stop the upcoming movie from generating a solid profit for Fox, but they could hamper the series as it arrives at a pivotal moment.

Film execs will be watching...

The respective performances of Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past will shape future release windows. The Winter Soldier has already shattered expectations, and it remains to be seen what effect its close release proximity will have on tent-pole movies from Sony and Fox.

The public appetite for superhero films has appeared nearly insatiable. The next month will put that theory to the test.

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Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 11:20 AM, GStrange wrote:

    I don't think the revenues of either Spider Man or the X Men will be harmed because they're superhero movies per se, but because they are movies which individually suffer from other problems.

    In the case of the Spider Man movie, it's going to be impacted towards mixed reviews from Europe (Is the US now the final release area for a cinematic feature?), and the reality that no matter how likeable the material is, it's a reboot that was sourced off material that was already done not 10 years ago. How much Spider Man product can the public consume in mass quantities?

    As for the X Men movie, based on the premise alone it will likely be an unweildly tale with so many characters involved that the storytelling will not be compelling. (I'm thinking X Men 3 here.) All fo the X Men comics have had this problem, and it can easily be magnified in a 2 hour theatrical release. This is above and beyond Mr. Singer's legal troubles.

    Back to the original point: It's not that it's superhero movies...they could be covering any material in a sci fi/action/fantasy format and have the same problems.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 11:29 AM, PAJohnDoe wrote:

    Did you guys not run almost exactly the same type of article a couple of weeks ago called "Will Captain America's success hurt Guardians of the Galaxy"? Will the failure of "Will Captain America:The Winter Soldier Hurt Spider-Man and X-Men At the Box Office?" hurt "Will Spider-Man and X-Men Hurt Guardians of the Galaxy at the Box Office"? I swear there are about 4 different superhero movie/TV articles on this site that keep getting rehashed over and over and over and over.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 11:36 AM, tw170 wrote:

    These articles from Motley Fool are always so weird. I don't understand the logic at all. Superheroes for the most part aren't interchangeable. Why would Captain America hurt the movies to come? They're very different. Captain America has done as well as it has because it's getting good reviews and word of mouth. Also it moves the Avengers' story along. It has little to do with its distance from the last Thor release.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 12:27 PM, MarcusB wrote:

    The Winter Soldier benefitted from being a legitimately great movie. Being one of the best superhero movies ever made and being able to hold its own against The Dark Knight is what made it so successful as well as being more of a political thriller than a superhero movie (anyone who has seen the movie will understand it's not a typical superhero movie). People are always going to be in the mood to go see a good action film, so I think the success of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Days of Future Past will depend on how well they stand up against The Winter Soldier (and in general, let's be honest) in terms of movie quality - not release date.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 12:47 PM, keithnoonan wrote:

    Hey tw170, thanks for the comment! I appreciate the feedback. The basic principle that I'm working with is that mainstream audiences only go to the theaters a certain number of times per year. Of those visits, there will typically be some variation between genre. So, if Average Joe or Jane (as representatives of the casual audience that ticket sales rely on) were to see six movies in a year, I wouldn't expect them all to be superhero action movies, even though the genre is very popular. I would also expect that there to be some space between cinema visits.

    So even though certain parts of the year are more stacked than others when it comes to film releases, I wouldn't expect half of Average Joe or Jane's cinema visits to come in a less than two-month window. It's the same basic principle that says Batman vs. Superman and Captain America 3 opening on the same day will cause each film to earn less money than if there is more space between them. There's a limit to the audience's available spend and time pools, and, even though it has clearly yet to be reached, there's also a limit to audience's appetite for superhero movies.

    I'm not suggesting that Spider-Man or X-men will flop because of Captain America, just that three huge superhero films launching in a short timeframe could provide either a positive or negative indication of just how indefatigable the public appetite for superhero movies is.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 2:47 PM, ioadan wrote:

    I think both films will do fine, but I will make this observation and let readers draw their own conclusion...

    When I went to the Captain America double-feature at AMC on opening night, they ran numerous movie trailers for many Summer blockbusters, including TMNT, Malificent, and both Spiderman and X-Men. The crowd did not react in any way to any of the trailers. Not so much as a clap or a laugh. Then the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy came on and the audience immediately began cheering and clapping. They laughed throughout the trailer and applauded enthusiastically as the trailer drew to a close with a Coming Soon. One person in the audience even yelled "Thank You" to the trailer, which elicited another round of applause. One would say that people gathered for a Captain America double-feature are a built-in audience for Guardians of the Galaxy, but you would also think they would have reacted in some way to either Spider-Man or X-Men.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 2:49 PM, CalvinballPro wrote:

    Personally, I am boycotting the Sony and Fox movies. I'd rather see their franchises fail, and the rights revert back to Marvel, so I can see those classic heroes in Marvel's (clearly-superior) Cinematic Universe.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 2:55 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    I'm with @CalvinballPro I want the rights to the characters back in the much more capable hands of Marvel & Disney. :)

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 3:13 PM, Mentallect wrote:

    Keithnoonan,

    you stated the X-Men trailer was not enjoyed by watchers whereas the Guardians of the Galaxy was cheered, then you have no idea about why?

    The X-Men trailer was so emotionally intense and deep, people was taking in the profound psychological impact. The Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was goofy, and made people laugh.

    No reasonable critic comparing those trailers think that GOTG will outperform the X-Men movie. The only reason it will not be a complete blowout is the X-Men movie is following Winter Soldier and Spiderman, whereas GOTG is opening by itself at the end of summer.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 3:38 PM, Puma wrote:

    This article is stupid. They're different types of superheroes and I for one, can't wait to see all of them!

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 4:21 PM, hectoruno wrote:

    I personally think that GOTG will outperform the X-Men movie. So far every movie the Marvel Disney has done has exceeded expectations. Reasonable Critics predicted all would flop. Iron Man 3 is in the top 5 highest grossing films of all time. Captain America the Winter solder was expected to flop and is now looking at making over 800 million. The X-men movies feel different. If I was out with my kids looking for a movie to watch and there were no kid flicks I would take them to an X-men movie. I woke them up and got them dressed to be early in line for Captain America. I will spend my last cent to go see GOTG. People in my theater reacted the same way as described for GOTG. Speaking out saying they were going to go see it.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 4:50 PM, JohnnyBrist wrote:

    Anyone with any class will go see the Spiderman movie, Captain America is stupid he throws a shield? Seriously? Spiderman is the best of all the comic superheroes let's face it!!!

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 8:38 AM, lexous112 wrote:

    Movie goers will still go and see spiderman and x-men, one main reason is the genre (action/adventure/fantasy), its more appreciated in the cinema than in your living-room, so yes i don't think they will flop, plus sony and fox have both expanded the univer of spiderman and x-men which draws in more interest with movie and comic lovers . And for those that think by boycotting spiderman and x-men will make the right revert back to marvel, better think again the right only reverts back if they don't produce a movie in a certain period of time, and as u can see both Sony and fox has a line up of movies till about 2018, besides marvel has a line up till about 2028, so even if it happens it gonna take a long time to see those movies....

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 11:54 AM, ioadan wrote:

    Just to be clear, I will be there opening day for all of these films, and I am extremely optimistic about the X-Men film in particular as they are covering one of the greatest, most memorable storylines in the comic's history. My comment about the reactions to the trailers (which was mine, not Keithnoonan's) was just to state that people are downplaying the appeal of GOTG, and I think it is going to surprise a lot of people. I know that a great trailer can be made for a horrible films and a terrible trailer can be made for a masterpiece.

    Oh, and Captain America is one of the greatest characters in Marvel history, who represents ideals and heroism that are as pure and strong as any superhero out there. I love Spider-Man, but Captain America is about a great deal more than "throwing a shield." He stands up for those who need protecting and never backs down for what he feels is right. He is basically a big boy scout, which makes it all the sadder that they can make a great film about him, but can't seem to do the same for DC's boy scout, Superman (without turning him into an angsty, torn killer who does little to actually protect others, anyway).

    Sorry...got off on a bit of a rant there.

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