Marvel Studios has done it again. For the seventh consecutive year, the studio has produced the world’s highest grossing superhero film. Doctor Strange isn’t even out for another couple months (November 4), but it’s the only superhero movie left on the calendar and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War has already outgrossed all of its competitors. Doctor Strange is unlikely to surpass Captain America: Civil War at the box office, but even if it does, the 2016 superhero box office champion will still belong to Marvel Studios.
This was certainly a more competitive year for Marvel Studios compared to 2015. Last year, the studio had Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man lined up against only Fox’s Fantastic Four. Both Marvel Studios films easily bested Fox’s flop. This year, Marvel Studios once again had a pair of films slated to compete with Fox’s Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse and Warner Bros.’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
Deadpool exceeded all expectations, earning $782.6 million at the global box office, upsetting Fox’s own X-Men: Apocalypse, which took in $534.6 million. The victory for Marvel Studios was pretty much assured when Batman v Superman, which was meant to launch the DC Extended Universe in earnest, fell short of the billion-dollar mark with $872.7 million. Suicide Squad, while posting an impressive $639.2 million thus far, was never meant to keep pace with a film like Captain America: Civil War and it will not.
To date, Captain America: Civil War has hauled in $1.15 billion worldwide. None of Marvel Studios’ competitors has a film left that can topple it and Marvel’s Doctor Strange cannot reasonably be expected to pose much of a threat to Civil War‘s crown. Captain America: Civil War currently stands as the fourth highest grossing superhero film of all time behind only The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Iron Man 3, all of which were made by Marvel Studios.
Marvel Studios’ seven-year streak of producing the world’s highest grossing superhero film began in 2010 with Iron Man 2 ($623.9 million) easily besting Kick-Ass ($96.2 million) and Jonah Hex ($10.9 million). In 2011, Marvel’s Thor ($449.3 million) put the hammer down on the evenly matched Captain America: The First Avenger ($370.6 million) from Marvel, Green Lantern ($219.9 million) from WB/DC, and X-Men: First Class ($353.6 million) from Fox. I say evenly matched because they were all first entries in new superhero franchises except for X-Men: First Class, which was a prequel with only minimal presence from established actors in the franchise.
Marvel Studios scored an upset win in 2012 when The Avengers ($1.5 billion) set the bar too high for The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08 billion) to reach. Going into that year, most would have bet on The Dark Knight Rises since it was the follow up to what had been the highest grossing superhero movie of all time — The Dark Knight ($1 billion). Marvel’s Iron Man 3 ($1.22 billion) rode that momentum to its own victory in 2013 over WB/DC’s Man of Steel ($668.1 million), Fox’s The Wolverine ($414.8 million) and Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World ($644.8 million). That an Iron Man movie beating a Superman film at the box office was not considered much of an upset remains a testament to Marvel Studios’ success since its first film, Iron Man, in 2008.
Marvel Studios scored another upset in 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy ($774.2 million), a space opera starring a handful of unknown cosmic heroes with no Avengers to be found, took on and beat a trio of established players. Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($714.8 million), Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($709 million), and Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past ($748.1 million) were all safer bets. As long as it turned a profit, there would have been no shame in GOTG finishing fourth in 2014, but it won the year by winning the hearts of moviegoers of all ages.
While crowning the new superhero movie king each year, Marvel Studios has also led the genre in total revenue each year since 2010. In order to continue that streak in 2016, Doctor Strange will have to make up the difference between Captain America: Civil War and the combined total of DC Films’ Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Right now, that means Doctor Strange will have to make at least $359.4 million. Of course, Suicide Squad is still making money so Doctor Strange will have to cover a larger gap.
Assuming Suicide Squad makes it to $700 million worldwide (which is not guaranteed), Doctor Strange will need to make $420.21 million. That’s very doable, as Marvel Studios has not released a film that made less than $500 million worldwide since Captain America: The First Avenger. Only three of Marvel Studios’ thirteen releases have grossed less than $500 million worldwide and all three of those were released between 2008 and 2011. As long as Doctor Strange is good, it should be able to pull its own weight and give Marvel Studios the highest combined superhero box office total for the seventh year in a row.
Regardless of what happens in November, it won’t change the fact that Marvel Studios has already guaranteed itself the highest grossing superhero movie for the seventh consecutive year. Barring an unforeseen upset by Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War will serve as Marvel Studios’ champion for 2016. It has been an incredible run that is only becoming more impressive as the competition gets tougher.