I make terrible predictions. That's what I do. I have a long, storied history of making very big, bold predictions that not only wind up being a little off, but being the MOST off possible. Like, not even close to right. Like, declaring there will NEVER be Star Wars sequels or that Deadpool would be a box office bomb.
So in an effort to hold myself more accountable, I'm doing predictions on a weekly basis here on Dorkly, all related to my typical nerd stuff. And for each prediction I get wrong, I'll actually have a price to pay - so here's this week's prediction, and the punishment I'll endure if I miss the mark.
'Infinity War' is the culmination of 10 years of the MCU - arguably the most successful and ground-breaking blockbuster franchise in history (if you CAN consider its loosely-connected series of smaller franchises as a single franchise, that is). The third Avengers film will tie together every disparate part of the universe up to this point (adding Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and Spider-Man to the Avengers line-up) and is being marketed as an end, of sorts, for everything that's come before this point. Hell, the film is so massive (supposedly has nearly 20 'main characters'), it was originally envisioned as two-parter, with the second part coming in 2019. Avengers 4 (not yet titled) is still coming in at the same date, and may likely have the same basic story that was originally planned, but is NOT being framed as "part 2" to Infinity War.
The assumption is that Infinity War is going to be an "event" film, the likes of which hasn't been truly witnessed in the MCU since the original 2012 Avengers film. That film was notable for introducing the idea of a superhero team-up to wider audiences, tying together 4 separate main characters into one pretty stellar film, and actually making a digestible film that pretty much everyone could enjoy. Age of Ultron sorta lacked that "event" feel - it was more or less just another team-up film, which didn't do THAT much different other than add a few new characters to the mix, like Vision and Scarlet Witch. And that's to say nothing of the crazy behind-the-scenes shenanigans that left the final cut bloated, weirdly complicated (I still don't really know what was up with Thor's cave), and lacking that special magic spark that made Avengers work so well.
But Infinity War is looking to be different - the behind-the-scenes tinkering is gone, now that Disney cut ties with Ike Perlmutter on the film side of things. The Russo Bros. are behind two of the most acclaimed films in the MCU (and two of the most difficult to pull off), Winter Soldier and Civil War. And - probably most importantly - this is the film that finally brings Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Stones to the forefront, and the joining of nearly every character we've met so far in order to stop him. This has the engine of the entire Marvel Studios machine behind it as THE most important, gigantic, momentous film to date.
And it's gonna get trounced by a (formerly) B-list hero's solo debut film.
Black Panther is CRUSHING every box office expectation - it was originally being projected as opening somewhere in the range of Doctor Strange (around $90m), before growing into a legit phenomenon and opening to a $200m+ weekend...which was A HIGHER DEBUT THAN AGE OF ULTRON. And since then, it's had ASTOUNDING week-to-week holds at the box office - most giant superhero films drop between 50-65% in their second weekends, shining a light on the reality of the first weekend being somewhat frontloaded due to superfans wanting to see the films as early as possible masking the reality that the broader audience isn't QUITE as interested in the films. Black Panther was different though - it dropped 44% in its 2nd weekend (the 2nd smallest drop in a $200m+ opening weekend film ever), and even less in its third weekend (about 40%). In other words, it has holding power - and it's gonna make some CRAZY money.
Black Panther has already ENTIRELY outgrossed Captain America: Civil War and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, only three weeks into its run...and its outpacing The Avengers. The Avengers is Marvel's highest grossing film ever...and Black Panther is pacing ahead of it, both in actual dollars and average daily drops. All things being equal, Black Panther's chances of beating The Avengers' domestic total doesn't seem LIKELY - it seems INEVITABLE.
Once that happens (probably a month or so from now), Black Panther will stand as the HIGHEST GROSSING FILM IN THE MCU (domestically, at least). No one's quite sure exactly what the final number will be, as Black Panther has bucked projections so frequently at this point - but it's gonna be big, as in bigger than The Avengers' $623m total.
One might think that Avengers: Infinity War would be able to top that - after all, it's INFINITY WAR. The biggest trailer in Youtube history! The final destination of the MCU! But this dumbass predictor thinks otherwise - Infinity War is gonna gross WAY less than Black Panther.
Here's why: the current box office tracking for Infinity War is in the range of a $200-$235m opening weekend. Granted, this is VERY EARLY. Things could change SIGNIFICANTLY depending on the reviews, word of mouth, and general buzz around the film. But one thing that's hard to separate from this is the overall feeling of "been there, done that" to the general audience. What's truly special and different about Infinity War? What will keep it from being as frontloaded as previous Avengers films (note that I'm including Civil War as an Avengers film because C'MON IT'S AN AVENGERS FILM)? It's certainly BIGGER - but the culmination of Thanos and the Infinity Stones probably won't mean a ton to the less comic book-obsessed audience. This is going to feel (somewhat) like another chapter in the endless saga of the MCU. It's BIGGER - but it's not DIFFERENT.
Black Panther was different - it was a self-contained story (for the most part) that didn't require you to have seen (and be familiar with) dozens of previously existing characters from other movies AND nicely wove in real life politics AND featured major representation for black men and women (something other comic book movies have...lacked, to put it lightly). That's a pretty huge advantage - Black Panther has found popularity amongst every demographic imaginable, and a big part of that is the fact that you don't have to be a Marvel fanboy to appreciate the film for what it is. Infinity War doesn't work like that, however - IW requires at least a passing familiarity with pretty much every single Marvel franchise to date AND will heavily feature an extremely unrelatable villain - Thanos, a big California Raisin who wants jewels for his glove so he can murder the universe to impress his crush. Mostly the film is meant to reward the superfans, and hopefully provide a fun adventure for everyone else too. But anything geared towards a (slightly) more niche audience that requires a deeper knowledge of the broader film universe to fully appreciate something is putting itself at a disadvantage.
And here's another thing - as I mentioned, this was originally framed as "Part 1", with the 2nd entry coming next year. They backed away from this titling idea, but it's hard to imagine they completely 180-ed their carefully laid out plans for these movies. Odds are that "Avengers 4" will end up being (essentially) the second half to Infinity War. Why is this important? Because there's a good chance Infinity War will end on some kind of cliffhanger, or with some major stuff unresolved, and not feel like a satisfying standalone experience. The reason Marvel Studios changed the titling is because audiences hate that shit.
Look back to the major film franchises that attempted "Part 1 & 2" entries: Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight. The "Part 1" films all shared something interesting in common - they made LESS money domestically than the preceding films. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire outgrossed The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince outgrossed The Deathly Hallows Part 1, and Twilight: Eclipse outgrossed Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1. These films were all promoted as "the beginning of the finale" - something that should have been momentous and huge for all of the franchises, but the idea that people were getting HALF a story led to lower box office returns. Marvel is certainly doing a better job at masking that idea here, but if the film doesn't wrap up the major storylines and leaves us on a big cliffhanger - audiences might not be too happy.
Also, part of the challenge is simply the 2nd and 3rd weekend drops - there's an upper-limit to how much money a film can garner in its opening weekend, due to restrictions on the number of theaters available, etc. Even if it winds up at the higher end of the current estimations, it's probably looking at a 55-65% drop in the second weekend, which immediately sends it beneath Black Panther (both Age of Ultron and Civil War dropped almost exactly 60% in their 2nd weekends).
But there's one other thing that's going to hurt Infinity War's long-term money-makin' hopes - a little film called Deadpool 2 coming out a mere three weeks into its run. Previously, I was under the impression that Deadpool might be something of a financial embarrassment for Fox. BOY WAS I WRONG. Like, the most wrong possible. Deadpool was a genuine phenomenon, and nothing about Deadpool 2 suggests they're dropping the ball or falling into a sophomore slump. The casting has all been incredible - Josh Brolin as Cable? Zazie Beetz as Domino? Julian Dennison (aka Ricky Baker) as...well, an undisclosed role as of now? Amazing! The marketing has been on-point, appropriately meta, and genuinely funny. And - odds are - they have a slightly more appropriate budget after proving themselves with the biggest R-rated movie debut in history.
And the audience for Deadpool 2 is PRETTY MUCH THE SAME as the audience for Infinity War. It's going to take the wind out of IW's sails in a pretty huge way.
Black Panther, on the other hand, has not faced any serious competition in its first three weeks in theaters - and from the looks of it, its main rival at the box office with will be Ava Duvernay's A Wrinkle in Time, which I'm sure will be great, but won't hold a candle to Deadpool 2 (financially-speaking).
Basically, the cards are stacked in Black Panther's favor right now - little-to-no-competition in the box office, unprecedented low drops week-to-week, and a general sense that the film itself is something completely new and must-see. And those are three things Infinity War can't really count on.
None of this is to say I'm judging the quality of the films - I'm simply predicting the box office returns. Trust me - I am VERY MUCH looking forward to Infinity War - Cap's beard, Wakanda battle-fest, the Black Order, Thor teaming up with the Guardians, Spidey fighting on a giant space-donut, etc.
But Marvel's crown jewel is gonna lose to Black Panther.
Listen - I understand there's a VERY GOOD CHANCE that I could be wrong in my prediction here. Infinity War is one of the most hyped films EVER, and the full strength of Disney's marketing will be behind it. Plus, it's building off of Black Panther's success - from the looks of things, T'Challa and Wakanda play MAJOR roles in the film, so it could draw in the BP audience PLUS everyone else who's invested in the MCU. And maybe the coming together of the Guardians, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther WILL mean a ton to audiences and recapture that crazy 'event' feel of the first Avengers.
Also - can you imagine if they do the "Avengers circle" shot, but with like 20 Avengers? That would make me extremely happy and I would probably see it at least 3 times in theaters.
So if Infinity War outgrosses Black Panther (domestically), I will exclusively drink out of my Infinity Gauntlet mug at work for every liquid I drink at work. Coffee, water, beer, alcohol - it doesn't matter. If I'm drinking ANYTHING at work, I will ONLY drink it out of this mug - to remind me of the power of Thanos/Marvel/Kevin Feige and keep me humble.
Note that I will never learn anything nor be humbled, no matter how many times I'm proven wrong.