Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'X-Men: Days of Future Past' Box Office Forecast and Predictions

Will “X-Men Days of Future Past” be the next Avengers?

Comic-based movies have become the main appeal of audiences as well as investors. Every major film distributor wants to get their hands on their next Avengers hit. Sony has Spider-Man, Fox has X-Men, WB has the DC universe with Superman, and the most lucrative—Disney has The Avengers.

But, can all of them prosper? As of now audience fatigue hasn’t kicked in most of the franchises. Most exceptional, of course, is The Avengers. Marvel’s gradually building work on the franchise has made it one of the most trusted and successful brands in the comic-book movie industry. It’s no secret that their crown jewel—Marvel’s The Avengers—is currently sitting among the three highest-grossing films of all-time. Analysis of their success is mostly clear now; every film they release always out grosses its predecessor. However, other franchises are still attempting to find flight on the ground. For 2014, there is one contender that could perhaps ultimately change its franchises’ fortune and without further ado it is X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Our previous analysis of The Wolverine revealed several details about how the X-Men franchise had become disorganized. To quote a relevant sentence from before: “Hopefully, the upcoming film [The Wolverine] will serve as connector and open new doors to other X-men films.” And our hopes came true as Fox finally decided to build something instead of just making stand-alone films with no general purpose. As of now, it’s still quite unclear what Days of Future Past is set to do. Is it a clean slate? Or is it just another sequel? And to what? While the prospects of future X-Men movies is still uncertain, one thing is for sure: the latest X-Men ensemble is invoking a strong response among audiences.

The evidence starts with being one of the most-anticipated films of summer 2014. In fact, based on a recent Rotten-Tomato based compile, X-Men Days of Future Past is leading with the highest want-to-see rating and votes at 99% and 128,000+. While trailer view counts were previously good predictors for audience anticipation and size of demographic, recent figures have become less substantial. To simply highlight the stats, the most-viewed trailer has been watched more than 29 million times which is on par with upcoming film The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The reason trailer views are less significant is due to different marketing strategies used by distributors. Recently, a full-grown one week prior to release marketing effort is being used; this means that all the anticipation builds up in the final week. And estimating the opening weekend of a film is less accurate using trailer views that mostly attract fans. Facebook likes and more specifically increase in Facebook likes have become better box-office indicators. The X-Men page currently boasts a solid 10 million likes close to Captain America’s 11 million likes. There has been a noticeable increase over the past few months, slightly lower than that of Captain America though. Note that the Captain America page started in 2010 while the latter started in 2011. The small margin might account for the 1 million difference in likes, but such small differences are not very important.

Fox’s promotion material has so far been very well used. Their restrain in releasing images and spoiler-filled trailers has been quite effective. However, their recent release of footage and trailers notably the few minutes of the opening scene is less a form of restrain but more of a blatant blow-out to grasp the target audience’s attention. Surely, this tactic has its advantages but their former strategy—of presenting a few but intriguing images—is far more useful. The non-hardcore moviegoers are used to seeing action; it seems that more action implies a better film. The final trailer makes use of that fact by showcasing the grand-scale action scenes and a few comic scenes.  Regardless, the structured presentation of the three trailers is a solid marketing effort. The first is a simple introduction into the time-travelling plot, the second takes on a darker look with further explanations using background voices of Charles Xavier, the third and final trailer unleashes the action and throws in a bit of humor. The diversified tones of the trailers should attract different type of audiences beyond only the aficionados.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the Days of Future Past is the fact that it is combining two different time frames: X-Men First Class and the original X-Men. Fox has been marketing that quite well using their trailers by showing scenes from the original X-Men trilogy. The main question that arises is: How different and similar is it to the combo of the Avengers? The Avengers combined 3 different characters who each had a proper establishment. X-Men doesn’t have that; they are combining two realms that are in effect the very same thing. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are not necessarily intertwined. In other terms, fans of Iron Man are not necessarily those of Captain America and Thor which means that an overlap in fanbase or moviegoers is less. X-Men, on the other hand, is combining two realms with mostly the same fanbase, so it is highly unlikely to see a staggering opening weekend such as that of The Avengers. Instead, Fox’s goal here is to win back fans who had lost interest after the end of the 2006 trilogy.

A good estimator for the base gross of the fifth X-Men installment is The Wolverine, released in July 2013. It is the last X-Men movie to hit theaters before Days of Future Past. It accrued a below par North American tally of $132.6 million but an in series record-setting non-North American gross of more than $282.2 million. These numbers represent the latest interest-levels in the X-Men movies. However, the caveat worth mentioning is that The Wolverine was the first film in the series to be released in 3D, hence an increase in non-North American figures is quite normal. Following the original trilogy of the X-Men franchise, interest levels slowly diminished in its major market—North America. The final film in the trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), grossed a record-high $234.4 million for the series. When adjusted for inflation, the numbers rise to $284.8 million which is very close to X2: United when also adjusted to 2014 tickets.* If the same diminishing factor is applied to the latest X-Men ensemble, the results would be catastrophic.

Based on early audience response, the final North American box office prospects seem more propitious. If we consider Days of Future Past as a sequel to First Class, the numbers escalate to $200 million. Moviegoers who have seen First Class would mostly likely classify Future Past as a sequel due to its setting and characters. Nonetheless, the trailers also show a different part of the movie bringing back characters from the original X-Men. So, a final box office gross between $200 million and $240 million should be a good range. The most concerning point in the stats is the weakening grosses (near 43%). Out beating such a pattern with the strong competition this summer will be quite the feat.

With an uncertain and original plot, X-Men Days of Future Past is building up to be one of the most surprising box office mysteries of this summer. The threshold is at $150 million but the ceiling is almost double that. If the film can tap into the power of its old fans then a gross above $250 million is the least of its worries. Internationally, the figures have been slowly rising and although 3D is not going to be a relevant booster it would most definitely sustain, if not surpass, The Wolverine’s $282.3 million gross. While the latest film may not reach the same levels as The Avengers, it should and most likely will become “The Avengers” of its own series. Expect,

North American Forecast: $240 million
Non-North American Forecast: $395 million
Worldwide: $635 million

*Extra Notes:

The next movie in 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, took a considerable 23.2%  and 13.8% dip in North American and international sales respectively. In 2011, Fox released a prequel/pseudo reboot for the X-Men with First Class. Although it was well-received by critics as well as audiences, it still experienced a light cut-down in its USA and Canadian grosses. Internationally, audiences were more receptive and it sore slightly higher. The ongoing audience fatigue in North America continued when The Wolverine, which was also well received, took in the least North American cume for the whole series.

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