As the industry watches the incredible global success of Iron Man 3, we now know that last year's phenomenal reception of The Avengers had a big hand in increasing the domestic and overseas appeal of another Tony Stark-led sequel.
For instance, 2010's Iron Man 2 took in $312.1 million stateside and $310 million in foreign markets. With the triple-whammy combo of increased Avengers interest, further expanding markets, and premium 3D prices, Iron Man 3 is already at $506 million overseas--and counting. In fact, the film is on pace to exceed The Avengers' box office receipts in many Asian markets.
Domestically, Iron Man 3 exceeded the number of tickets sold by Iron Man 2 on opening weekend after accounting for inflation and 3D prices. That's a fairly rare feat among second sequels whose predecessors (Iron Man 2, in this case) aren't as well-liked as the original film.
With a clear path toward at least $1.1 billion worldwide (and likely more), Iron Man 3 is setting a high standard for the next Marvel Cinematic Universe installments.
None will be tested sooner than Thor: The Dark World, releasing this November. Domestically, that sequel has a good shot at the first Thor's $181 million in 2011--but being regarded as an event nearly as large as Iron Man 3 still seems a herculean task. Why? Two words: Catching Fire. Lionsgate's surefire hit opens just 14 days after Thor 2 on November 22.
That said, the first Hunger Games movie wasn't quite as big of a monster hit overseas as it was in North America last year. If the status quo remains there, that gives Thor: The Dark World a foreign advantage--a very important one these days. 2011's Thor grossed $265 million overseas (itself an impressive number at the time). If the success of The Avengers and Iron Man 3 really are indicative of expanding foreign interest in the comic book genre (something recently shown by Chris Nolan's Dark Knight sequels), The Dark World may stand to gain quite a bit on it's predecessor.
Beyond Thor, the next sequel will be 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That film has opted for an April release next year (for now, anyway). As the lowest grossing of the three major solo Avengers (we're excluding Hulk since his solo movies have ended for the foreseeable future), a large increase over the sequel's $367.7 million global tally isn't likely... yet. The nature of that character's obvious domestic appeal puts more importance on the North American performance, and getting a jump on the summer schedule next year isn't a bad strategy on how to tackle that.
Then, in August 2014, comes Guardians of the Galaxy. This will be Marvel's most potentially esoteric adaptation yet, but their track record is hard to dispute. With a complete cast of new characters and new cosmic settings, forecasting its box office potential is simply out of the question for now. It's a complete wild card.
There are two factors to remember with the core sequels, though. #1: Iron Man 3 was the first in its series to be released in 3D. While The Dark World and The Winter Soldier still stand to gain from the success of The Avengers, their predecessors were already released in 3D in 2011. In other words, expecting a 200-250 percent increase in foreign grosses (as will ultimately be enjoyed by Iron Man 3 over Iron Man 2) seems highly unlikely for those two.
The second factor: the law of diminishing returns. As the first post-Avengers movie, it cannot be ruled out that Iron Man 3 stood far more to gain than any of the other solo films will. Nevertheless, both the Thor and Captain America sequels will still be major global players. The $758 million global take of an established A-list property like The Amazing Spider-Man might not even be out of the question for one (or both). Will $1 billion be in either of their futures? It seems unlikely, but Iron Man 3 has taught us to never say never.
Ultimately, as it follows a $1.5 billion-grossing 2012 phenomenon, Marvel's The Avengers 2 is well-positioned to conquer the box office again two years from now. That much we can take to the bank.
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