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Box Office: Superhero Movies Rule Hollywood Because We Ignore Everything Else

I didn’t want to get into the “Marvel movies are taking over the multiplex” argument that Martin Scorsese has reignited while promoting The Irishman. He was right to take his 3.5-hour, $140 million mob drama to Netflix. There’s no way that movie as it exists would have broken even in our conventional theatrical system. That’s as true today as it was 30 years ago. Marvel/DC superhero movies are indeed dominating the box office, representing 25% of the current domestic marketplace. Audiences have always gravitated to the big-n-splashy event movies, like Star Wars in 1977, Stargate in 1994 or Thor in 2011. Superhero movies now represent, give or take Jurassic World or Mission: Impossible, the biggest of the blockbuster offerings.

Yes, Wonder Woman is better than King Arthur, Black Panther is better than Tomb Raider and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was better than Men in Black: International. What’s changed, whether the filmmakers and artists realize it or not, is that the audience that once showed up for everything beyond the tentpoles, the romantic comedies, the crime dramas, the action thrillers and the melodramas, have comparatively abandoned the multiplexes in favor of at-home/VOD/streaming options. It’s not that everyone wants to see Aladdin, but that the folks who once would have seen Booksmart instead of Aladdin or as well as Aladdin now either ignore Booksmart in favor of a Netflix show or wait to catch Booksmart on VOD or streaming.

It’s frustrating to see a movie that we championed when it was in theaters, like (for example) Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor, do okay business ($97 million worldwide) only to be “discovered” only when it’s available for free on Hulu, Amazon

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