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.
Here at Dorkly, my complete underestimation of the box office potential of the original Deadpool is something that's referenced whenever I predict anything at all. I had originally pegged Deadpool as being a niche geek phenomenon character who would have trouble breaking out to a larger audience, ala Scott Pilgrim, and the feature film starring Ryan Reynolds would be a relative bomb, maybe opening to $30m or so. I had my reasons - that Deadpool was too meme-y and weird for general audiences, the R-rating, and Ryan Reynolds having a string of high-profile box office bombs behind him (RIPD, Green Lantern, X-Men Origins WHERE HE PLAYED THE SAME CHARACTER...KIND OF).
Of course, I was wrong. I was the most wrong I've ever been, and I've been wrong a lot. The film not only broke pretty much every record it could at the time (biggest opening for a February release, biggest opening for an R-rated movie), it became a legitimate sensation - finishing up as the highest grossing (worldwide) R-rated movie in history at $783m. Of course, it had a few things going for it (beyond simply being a breath of fresh air for the MUCH IN NEED OF PARODYING superhero genre) - it faced very little competition in the weeks after its release, there hadn't been a big R-rated comedy in a while, and it had a stellar marketing campaign.
So why the hell do I think Deadpool 2 is capable of grossing $250m more worldwide THAN THE BIGGEST R-RATED FILM IN MOVIE HISTORY?
Let's go over the arguments against it first - the biggest and most obvious is the release date: May 18th, aka right smack dab in one of the biggest months in movie history. A few weeks prior to its release, Avengers: Infinity War is coming out (and looking to be one of the hugest blockbusters that ever blockbusted, breaking pre-sales ticket records within SIX HOURS), and one week after Deadpool 2 comes Solo - which, even with the messy behind-the-scenes stuff, is still a Star Wars film and is therefore going to deliver some pretty massive box office returns. Hell, even Rogue One made over a billion dollars.
This is important because people don't have infinite money nor infinite time to go to movie theaters - and Infinity War, Deadpool 2, and Solo are all largely targeting similar audiences. Will that many people want to line-up for 3 separate blockbusters all within the same month?
Then, of course, is the R-rating. Films rated R are naturally at a huge disadvantage - you can't bring kids, therefore families don't come, and DEFINITELY schools can't arrange field trips to go see the movie (which was something that helped out Black Panther a bit). The highest grossing R-rated film EVER was Deadpool, and that didn't even crack $800m.
So - why will Deadpool hit a billion?
Deadpool falls into two categories that are generally pretty decent for sequels - superhero movie and R-rated comedy. Some might point to sequels where the box office either went down a bit or mostly remained stagnant in comparison to the first, but two huge markers for these are the quality / word-of-mouth around the sequel film and the legacy of the original. And while we're still a ways out from when formal reviews will be dropping, rumors have leaked out about test screening results - and as of now, they're through the roof positive and enthusiastic. A recent test screening done in Dallas apparently garnered Deadpool 2 a 98 (out of 100) - which is higher than the original film ever scored throughout its test screening process. That's pretty good.
On top of that, the marketing has been - up to this point, at least - absolutely stellar. One of the biggest advantages the original, scrappy lil film had was that its marketing campaign was on-point throughout, with great trailers, lots of funny meta pranks, and - its secret weapon - Ryan Reynolds also being a genuinely hilarious guy on Twitter, in interviews, and everywhere else you could find him. Reynolds' has managed something akin to Robert Downey Jr., where their fictionalized superhero character just feels like a natural extension of their normal day-to-day personality. There's something very endearing about that, and - wouldn't you know it - Robert Downey Jr. also led a solo sequel film that blew past a billion dollars. Not that Iron Man 3 and Deadpool 2 appear to share a lot of similarities, but the goodwill engendered by their stars is definitely one element they have in common.
Also, c'mon - the first trailer being a weird, extended Bob Ross gag littered with easter eggs and its followup having this mid-card should indicate they know what they're doing this time around too:
And none of that even includes the wonderful little teaser included in front of last year's Logan, which was pretty much everything you could ever dream of getting out of a Deadpool teaser:
But let's talk about the legacy of the original for a bit - it wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan thing that everyone forgot about after seeing it. It held on and continued to find new fans after its theatrical release - it set new records for digital downloads and DVD sales. And it's proven its lasting power there - Deadpool's DVD / Blu-Ray sales have largely remained in the top 20 for close to two full years now. Yep, in November 2017, it was still selling tens of thousands of units per week and staying in the top 20 list.
And while all of this is well and good for its domestic numbers, if we're talking ONE BILLION, the conversation needs to shift a bit to its international performance - and with that, China. China has become one of the biggest and most important territories for a film's overall box office health in the past decade. And that makes sense - they have the highest population of any country in the world, and (generally) Chinese audiences love big action films. There are some compromises studios have to make, naturally - Chinese film releases are strictly regulated by the government, and they only allow a certain number of US films to be released per year, and only during certain time periods (the goal being to give homegrown Chinese films a better chance at success, since their film industry isn't quite at the same level as Hollywood), the Chinese government only allows US film companies to take a small percentage of the box office grosses (around 25%, compared to 40-50% everywhere else in the world), and they have incredibly strict censorship rules.
It's that last part that's the biggest wildcard with Deadpool - and the reason the first Deadpool never saw a Chinese release. That's actually one of the things that makes Deadpool's box office even more impressive - it got to $780m WITHOUT any money from China. If it performed similar to that year's OTHER (and significantly, wildly worse) X-Men movie, Apocalypse, it would have added another $120m into its coffers...which would have put it at $900m, within spitting distance of a billion.
So what are the odds that Deadpool 2 sees a Chinese release? Better than you might think - it was just announced Deadpool would be screened as part of the Beijing International Film Festival, the first time Deadpool would see an official screening in China in mid-April....right before the release of Deadpool 2. It indicates a few things - but mostly that Fox is serious about getting Deadpool in good with China and Chinese regulators this time around.
If it does manage to get a release in China (and can perform around the levels of one of the worst X-Men films ever), then all Deadpool needs to do is increase its box office performance by 11% across the board to get to a billion dollars worldwide. That's not inconceivable - hell, it seems like it could do that pretty handily...
(assuming the reviews and word-of-mouth are as good as the first film, or better!)
(and assuming that Solo reviews poorly, the behind-the-scenes shenanigans hurt its performance, and Alden Ehrenreich is as miscast as Han Solo as everyone seems to think he is, so that the film doesn't tear into Deadpool 2's audience as much as it would otherwise)
(and assuming the whole China stuff works out, and - like - the value of the dollar internationally is strong? Or is it better for just the raw numbers when it's weak? Man, I should've done some research first)
The first Deadpool was a goddamn phenomenon - opening far higher than anyone could have predicted, thanks to its insanely strong word-of-mouth and amazing hype generated by a marketing campaign that had free reign (mostly) of the beginning of the year. Seriously, look at the film releases surrounding February 2016 - it was dire. There was nothing to get in Deadpool's way, either before or after its release (the next big superhero movie would be...Batman v. Superman, about a month and a half later).
The situation here is different. VERY different. It's opening between the biggest, most hyped Avengers movie ever AND a Star Wars spinoff. That's a weird spot to be in - especially since they could have just moved the release date to early August and had the month to themselves (seriously - that spot worked so well for Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, why wouldn't Fox do that?!). The one benefit Deadpool 2 will see is that kids will be getting out of school, which should give it longer legs and better weekday performance than the original could manage.
Still - one thing that Deadpool 2 is providing to differentiate it is the "solid R-rated comedy" aspect. Audiences haven't had a big theatrical R-rated comedy to get excited about in a while - the last even okay-performing one was Game Night, which didn't leave that much of an impact on the box office. But especially after the dire, death-filled, apocalyptic-tone of Infinity War, a light goofy comedy is going to be exactly what a lot of people are looking for....maybe.
And China. While the original getting screened at a film festival is nice and a positive sign, it's not exactly a guarantee that the sequel will get a big roll-out (especially because almost no matter what, Fox would need to heavily censor the sexuality and some of the gore inherent to Deadpool to make the film passable for Chinese film board standards). Again, China not showing the movie basically means it will stand zero chance of making even close to a billion.
The last time I was wildly wrong about Deadpool's box office potential, I was supposed to see Deadpool with my dog. For several reasons (one, I don't think movie theaters let you bring your tiny yappy dogs into the theater?), I didn't do that...but I did bring my grandma (in-law, that is) instead. She did not enjoy it. So I'm not gonna be doing THAT again, but I will figure out something appropriately painful.
So how about this: I will rewatch and post a passionate defense of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This is something I genuinely have no idea how I would do - I once thought of kiiinda doing that, but it immediately became a meta troll comic because that was the only thing I could do to justify the title I had in my head. I haven't seen it since it first came out, but remember absolutely hating every bit of it from start-to-finish, particularly with the baffling decisions made around Deadpool.
So...let's hope that doesn't happen.