Captain America was the big winner over the weekend, racking up a nice, tidy $65 million. We won’t know until later today if it beat out Thor ($65.8 million) for the best opening weekend of the year for a superhero movie. What we do know is that the openings of both Thor and Captain America combined barely topped the opening last year of Iron Man 2 ($128 million). There have been five major superhero movies to have opened since Iron Man 2, and their openings break down like this: Green Hornet ($33 million); Thor ($65.8 million); X-Men: First Class ($55 million); Green Lantern ($53 million); and Captain America ($65 million). Not exactly record breakers. Those numbers are all a far cry from the opening weekend receipts of the major superheroes, Spider-man ($114, $88, $151 million); and The Dark Knight ($158 million) and even fall short of the X-Men series before Brett Ratner derailed it.
Some, specifically, Susquehanna Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov, claims in a report that the death of the superhero movie is quickly arriving. Beyond the four franchises — Batman, Spider-man, X-Men, and Iron Man — there’s not a lot of hot properties left to be turned into huge blockusters, she argues. It’s probably why we are seeing a Spider-man reboot so soon; it’s one of the few that can open big. We’re not even sure that Superman is capable of that anymore, as we get word that the release of Zack Snyder’s too-soon reboot is being pushed back to 2013.
Superhero films are expensive, and the profit margins are getting smaller (Green Lantern doesn’t even look likely to reach into the black) and Captain America won’t be able to rely on foreign grosses as much as some of the other superhero films to ensure profitability). We may already be seeing the death of the superhero movie. There are three scheduled for release next summer (The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-man), but there are no attempts to start a new franchise. 2013 looks even worse: A new Iron Man, another Thor and Snyder’s Superman are all that’s on the horizon right now. Indeed, 2011 may be the peak of superhero movies, at least in terms of quantity. And given the overall mediocrity of the offerings outside of the Nolan’s Batman movie and the original Iron Man, I can’t say I’m disappointed to see them fade away.
In other box-office news, Harry Potter continued its box-office onslaught, adding another $48 million. It should top $300 million domestically next weekend and looks to compete with Transformers 3 ($325 million so far) for the highest grossing film of the year.
Friends with Benefits, meanwhile, sold $18 million in tickets, a million bump over what Easy A sold in its opening weekend (Easy A would make $57 million and become a big hit on DVD, and I expect a similar course for Friends with Benefits. Reviews for the Will Gluck film have been positive overall (70 percent on RottenTomatoes), but the movie will likely have it’s demo eaten into next week by Crazy, Stupid, Love, the one movie I’m hoping will salvage an overall mediocre summer.
There wasn’t much excitement otherwise at this weekend’s box office. Horrible Bosses, in at number five, continues to perform well and with $82 million now and $100 million in its sights, could be the sleeper hit of the summer. The duds of the summer, however, may be Larry Crowne ($34 million overall) and Zookeeper ($59 million).