Did I read correctly? Did former Fool Steven Mallas just write that The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Entertainment's (NYSE:MVL) latest run at box-office gold, which exceeded industry expectations with a $54.5 million opening over the Father's Day weekend, is a ... bomb?

Yes. His rationale, posted on BloggingStocks:

The awful Hulk movie that was released back in 2003 grossed $62.1 million in its opening weekend. There's no way to spin this. We've had five years of inflation between that terrible flick and this new iteration. Simply put, it should have grossed at least $65/$70 million, especially on the heels of Iron Man. I'm a shareholder of Marvel, and I don't like the fact that the success of Marvel's first movie of the summer didn't synergize a little better with the angry green guy.

I have a big problem with Steven's thesis. Comparing this year's debut to what Hulk faced in 2003 seems to me a stretch. Here's a list of action flicks still showing at the time of each film's opening weekend:

Release Date

Hulk competitor

U.S. Box Office Take

May 2, 2003

X-2: X-Men United

$214.9 million

May 15, 2003

The Matrix Reloaded

$281.6 million

May 30, 2003

The Italian Job

$106.1 million

June 6, 2003

2 Fast 2 Furious

$127.2 million

June 13, 2003

Hollywood Homicide

$30.9 million

Source: Box Office Mojo.

Release Date

Incredible Hulk competitor

U.S. Box Office Take

May 2, 2008

Iron Man

$297.9 million (so far)

May 9, 2008

Speed Racer

$42.5 million (so far)

May 16, 2008

Narnia: Prince Caspian

$131.9 million (so far)

May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones - Crystal Skull

$276.5 million (so far)

Source: Box Office Mojo.

Two things to note here:

  1. Even though both films faced down a blockbuster -- The Matrix Reloaded for Hulk and the new Indiana Jones for The Incredible Hulk -- Ang Lee's version debuted on June 20, the weekend after Father's Day that year and more than a month after the Matrix sequel hit theaters. Indy's new adventure, by contrast, isn't yet a month old and is still drawing a decent audience.
  2. The Incredible Hulk's competition, though fewer, is bigger. Do the math. This year's crop has already produced $748.8 million in grosses, or $187.2 million per film. Hulk's competitors ended their run with $760.7 million, or $152.1 million each. Inflation alone can't explain away that gap.

To be fair, I should say that even I predicted a $70 million opening for the Hulkster's re-introduction. But that doesn't change the truth that The Incredible Hulk did, indeed, beat expectations. The Hollywood Reporter said the film would open "comfortably north" of $40 million before it bowed. $54.5 million qualifies, I think.

What's more, how can you call a film that fans and critics like more than the original a bomb? Behold:


Incredible Hulk


Total rating



Community rating



Top critic rating



Source: RottenTomatoes.com.

Take these numbers seriously, Fool. Marvel is like Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Pixar and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Brothers in that its top franchises have a history of earning 70% or more of their total box office take after the opening-weekend hype subsides. Fans help to provide the ensuing tailwind.

Finally, here's the box office record for Marvel films that opened to $50 million or better:


Opening Weekend

U.S. Box Office Total

Spider-Man 3

$151.1 million

$336.5 million


$114.8 million

$403.7 million

X-Men: The Last Stand

$102.8 million

$234.4 million

Iron Man

$98.6 million

$297.9 million

Spider-Man 2

$88.2 million

$373.6 million

X-2: X-Men United

$85.6 million

$214.9 million


$62.1 million

$132.2 million

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

$58.1 million

$131.9 million

Fantastic Four

$56.1 million

$154.7 million


$54.5 million

$157.3 million

Source: Box Office Mojo.

Talk about good odds. Only two flicks -- the widely panned Hulk and last year's sequel to Fantastic Four -- have ever failed to reach $150 million after bowing for at least $50 million. That's why Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) Paramount Studios and News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) 20th Century Fox continue to show enthusiasm for Marvel's properties.

My son and I went to see The Incredible Hulk last night. I can see why fans love it. For me, it wasn't as well done as Iron Man. (The whole team really deserves a raise for that one.) But I really enjoyed the connection to the old TV series, Edward Norton's depiction of driven scientist Bruce Banner, and the notable comic relief provided by Tim Blake Nelson.

And, yeah, I loved it just as much as everyone else in the theater did when Lou Ferrigno voiced the green guy's signature "Hulk ... SMASH!" line on screen.

You call this film a bomb for shareholders, Steven? Only if it doesn't produce at least $150 million in grosses. Expect a public apology from me if it doesn't.