The Marvel name is golden. It has the ability to lift up marginal superheroes to the ranks of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America.
Witness “Ant-Man,” the latest costumed avenger to hit movie screens. Though hardly a household name, the man with the powers of an arthropod should show some box office heft when the adventure film that sports his name debuts to $62 million this weekend. That’s roughly in line with what “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor” did in their initial weekends in theaters, even though “Ant-Man” is a lesser star in the Marvel universe.
“The Marvel brand is strong enough to bring a familiarity to any movie they shepherd to the marketplace,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “It carries weight with an audience. It acts like a sequel would and makes audiences feel more comfortable.”
“Ant-Man” rolls out in 3,800 locations, most of which are in 3D. There will also be 361 Imax and 388 premium large format screenings, giving “Ant-Man” some sizable surcharges.
Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Corey Stoll star in the comic book adaptation, which centers on a down-on-his-luck thief who rediscovers his moral compass after using technology to transform himself into the size of an insect. You know, that old story.
Critics have liked the movie, hailing its witty tone and comparing it to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which mixed humor with action. That’s good news, since some feared “Ant-Man” would struggle to stay quirky after original director Edgar Wright (beloved by geeks everywhere for his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy) left due to those pesky “creative differences” and was replaced by Peyton Reed (“Bring It On”).
The Disney production cost $130 million to produce, so the studio is banking on fanboys and fangirls across the globe to check out the latest masked vigilante, even if his powers are unorthodox. “Ant-Man” will roll out in 50 territories, where it should pull in an additional $60 million.
Stateside, “Ant-Man” may get overshadowed by “Minions,” Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s animated smash. The “Despicable Me” spinoff should pull in $60 million in its second weekend of release, but if it climbs higher, it could take the top spot from “Ant-Man.”
“Ant-Man” isn’t the only newcomer looking to shoulder in on the summer box office. Amy Schumer will try to take her gimlet-eyed brand of social commentary mainstream as “Trainwreck” debuts in approximately 3,153 theaters. The look at a commitment-phobic woman co-stars Bill Hader, was directed by Judd Apatow and proves that NBA superstar LeBron James is the rare professional athlete who can deliver punchlines. It should pull in between $18 million and $20 million, propelled by strong reviews and Schumer and Apatow’s indefatigable work promoting the movie.
Universal, the studio behind the brash comedy, has been trying to build momentum, hosting a high-profile screening at last spring’s SXSW to generate buzz. Starting early could be critical. R-rated comedies traditionally have been staples of blockbuster season, but this year’s crop of “Ted 2,” “Spy” and “Entourage” haven’t consistently delivered big grosses. “Trainwreck” is a rather modest proposition, however, having cost $35 million to produce, so it doesn’t have to be a blockbuster to enjoy healthy profit margins.