C: Well, it’s official. Marvel Studios’ first film starring a non-white superhero (no, green doesn’t count) will NOT be a summer blockbuster. It can’t be. Even though the movie has yet to be made.
The news came in the form of a “blah blah don’t mind me” appendix to the exciting announcement that the Ant-Man sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, will actually feature a gosh-darn woman as a co-star — right up there in the title with the man! This is big news, since Marvel has now made 12 movies which feature women only as supporting or ensemble cast members.
E: You know we Quibbling Siblings love us some Marvel Studios, but seriously, that is beyond overdue.
C: Agreed! Sadly, the press release also included two much-less-cool updates: the move of the Black Panther movie from July to February 2018, and of the Captain Marvel movie from November 2018 to March 2019. The first solo female superhero film and they’re releasing it in March? As they have done with no other Marvel movie?
M: When was it slated for originally?
C: November. Which is also an unusual month for a superhero film, though Thor: The Dark World was released then (a fact I recall since it was my first date with my fiancé!). November also has the Thanksgiving holiday — it’s a family-friendly month at the box office overall. March is more of a pensive-dramas type month.
E: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. March doesn’t compare to November for a prestige opening, although that’s when they opened the Divergent films, so we know that it’s not a total wasteland. Like February.
M: Just as a random example.
E: On the other hand, hey. Maybe Marvel’s going to make a play to make the rest of the year viable? They’ve been doing very well with August, after all.
C: Guardians was released August 1st, which is unusual but still leaves a fair bit of summer vacation time. Everything else so far except The Dark World and The Winter Soldier has been in that sweet May-July corridor.
M: Hmmmm… Yes, the Divergent movies opened in March. So did the first Hunger Games. I wonder if Marvel is seeing that and relying on the fact that they know female action hero movies can succeed then? Maybe they think opening the FIRST one then gives them the best chance of success (and least competition) — then, once Captain Marvel has a built-in audience, they can move it to the summer or holiday schedule for its sequels?
C: I would like to hope that’s the rationale, but I also feel like they’re letting down the side simply by being so cautious. You’re Marvel! If you tell people to buy a woman in a cape, dammit, people should buy!
M: As for Black Panther, February worries me. A lot. No one opens things they think are going to be hits in February. Yes, maybe Marvel thinks they can own any month, and wants to make it viable, but is that the more likely scenario? Or is it more likely that they’re burying it already?
C: When a studio moves a film that’s been made to February it means they expect it to tank. When they move a film they haven’t made yet to February… does that mean they’ve already decided they’ve don’t need it to make the big bucks?
E: I don’t know — it’s awful early for them to be giving up on Black Panther, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t even think they’ve cast it yet. They have to be thinking that they can succeed with movies at other times in the year, or they’d only be making 2 or 3 a year. I’m sure you’re right, M — they must consider March a female-friendly month. And they’ve been so smart up till now about rolling out their properties. Perhaps they want to make Black Panther the event of February. It doesn’t seem like their style to make a quick knock off; it’d hurt the brand.
C: Yeah, I really can’t imagine them thinking that way.
M: Well, the lead role is cast, the awesome Chadwick Boseman. Rumor is that the villain will be Andy Serkis (the character he played in Age of Ultron).
C: Oh that’s right, they cast Boseman to appear in the next Cap movie, didn’t they? Maybe they think that’s sufficient introduction?
E: If he’s featured prominently, he could generate a lot of positive attention…
M: I agree with everything you’re saying, but putting it in February this far out just seems like an odd choice. I know they want to space things out, not be competing with themselves, and be able to properly hype everything, and where Ant-Man was already a big hit they’re giving its sequel the primo slot. Still, you’d think with that in July they could do April for Black Panther…
C: Or early May and late July, as they did with Thor 1 and Cap 1.
E: Indeed. Well, February is Black History month…
M: That’s a good point that I hadn’t thought of! That might actually be a really successful marketing plan.
C: That is meaningful, but I’m not sure the box-office pull of Black History Month competes with the box-office clout of, you know, summer. Were it any movies other than these two that they were putting in this new February-March territory I’d put it down the reasons of “we’re Marvel, we can do anything” — but to me, this is NOT an auspicious way to premiere the two most “daring” (so sad that’s true in the 2010s…) of the upcoming projects.
M: Yeah, that’s what I’m feeling, too.
E: Yes. I agree. I was not actually serious about Black History month being part of the marketing plan; definitely needed the sarcasm font there.
M: You may have been sarcastic, but I think that may actually figure in. Think about it, if you’re Marvel and choosing between February and March, and you can release the first superhero movie with a black lead in black history month, or a week after it, doesn’t it make sense to try for that tie-in?
C: At the very least, I can see Marvel using that to pat themselves on the back if it does succeed wildly. Which hopefully it still will! But it’s hard to understand why they’d want to pitch this into “Special Interest Movie” territory. Superheroes are for everyone. That’s the whole point.
E: As Marvel Studios, of all studios, should know.