Summer Superhero Showdown

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I spend a lot of time at the movies. And just as December is always packed with “serious” films vying for Oscar nominations, summer is the time for big special effects filled action movies. This summer’s action roster had even more in common than usual, no less than four separate movies based on well-known comic book super heroes were released: ‘Thor’, ‘X-Men First Class’, ‘Green Lantern’, and ‘Captain America’.

As with any business venture – particularly ones with so much money on the line – the internet played a big part in marketing. Interested in how the web presence of these outwardly similar films stacked up against their box office take, I took a look at some numbers.

Box Office Mojo has a nice breakdown of the comparative budgets and box office income. I also looked at data for the films’ official sites.

‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ seem to be the clear monitory winners. And indeed, they are the only 2 on the list who brought in more domestically than they spent to make them. Now let’s look at the internet buzz preceding their releases.


The first thing that strikes me about these numbers is the similarity between ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America.’ Both are Marvel Studios productions, both are origin stories of characters who will appear in next year’s ‘Avengers,’ both brought in $223 in their first month per unique website visitor in the month of their release. Clearly Marvel has a consistent way of using the internet to market its films.

‘Green Lantern’ — a DC character release by Warner Bros. Studios — had similar ratios. Its modestly higher receipts per web visitor, but overall lower numbers could point to a flawed plan to attract interest in the film early on.

The big outlier here is clearly ‘X-Men First Class.’ It did quite well at the box office with very little traffic to its official site. If I was to hazard a guess as to why the X-Men numbers are so different from the rest, my first thought would be how long the sites were up. The other three sites were up and active a year before the films’ release; X-Men only started showing traffic four months before release, allowing less time to establish the official site as a main destination for the movie. Also, it was different from the other three in that it was a prequel to an established franchise, rather than the (hopeful) start of a new one. Movie goers perhaps had enough information about the film from earlier releases in the series and did not feel the need for the official site to build interest.

What are your theories?

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  1. Christian O'Brien

    I dunno why people even go to those elaborate, noisy, Flash—heavy movie promo sites in the first place. It seems to me that 3rd party sites like AICN, UGO, IGN, CHUD, etc provide a ton of info about these movies with a lot less hassle.


  2. Agadir

    X-Men First Class own $1,106 all time per release month Uvs!!! more then others!!!


  3. Victoria Glazomitsky

    Do we know anything about the difference in the demographics and web-use patterns of the audiences intended for these films? One explanation for the higher visitation for the Marvel flicks COULD, and I repeat COULD be, for instance, (and at great risk to making some pretty blanket assumptions about my own gender) that the Thor and Captain America sites attract a certain element of teenage girls whose celebrity crushes are Chris Hemsworth (sp?) and Chris Evans, and that Ryan Reynolds and the X-Men do not quite have that same following, with the time available to scour their pics on the sites (though I would take Ryan Reynolds over Thor any day of the week… in fact, going to head to the Green Lantern site now).