Marvel Studios reigns supreme at the global box office for superhero movies. After locking up the genre’s highest grossing film—Captain America: Civil War—for the seventh year in a row, Marvel Studios now leads all superhero moviemakers in total box office revenue for 2016. In a very competitive year, Marvel was put over the top this past weekend by its latest hit, Doctor Strange.
This was a big year for superhero movies, especially for the genre’s three biggest players—20th Century Fox, Warner Bros./DC Films, and Marvel Studios. While there are a few smaller films that can also be attributed to the genre, the main competitors were responsible for six films this year, two entries in each studio’s shared universe.
Fox started the year off strong with Deadpool in February. That it was a hit wasn’t much of a surprise, but the film greatly exceeded all financial expectations to the tune of $782.6 million worldwide. Fox, which had become a bit of an afterthought compared to Marvel Studios and DC Films, showed that it was a force to be reckoned with, at least in the early going.
Unfortunately for Fox, and those of us who saw the film, X-Men: Apocalypse did not hold up its end of the bargain. Its $543.9 million worldwide total was over $200 million less than the franchise’s previous entry, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Combined with Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse gave Fox $1.33 billion at the superhero global box office, which is fine, but not a sum that stood much of a chance against the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warner Bros. and DC Films started their superhero year with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March. Slammed by critics, the second film in the DCEU canon posted $873.3 million worldwide. It’s an impressive total, but below the billion-dollar mark the studio and most pundits expected. BvS left Warner Bros. vulnerable in the box office competition, but the bad guys nearly saved the day.
Suicide Squad may have been judged just as harshly by critics as Batman v Superman and suffered a similar second weekend drop, but it soon found its legs. Audiences kept coming out to see Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and friends through the end of summer and into the fall, to the tune of $745.6 million worldwide. That’s an impressive total no matter what, but even more impressive considering the fact that like Deadpool, Suicide Squad was not released in China.
Suicide Squad‘s big performance on top of Batman v Superman raised Warner Bros.’ superhero box office total to $1.62 billion. That figure is good for an average of over $800 million per film, which any studio would be happy to have. It also meant that in order to maintain its hold on the box office, Marvel Studios was going to need both of its 2016 films to be big hits.
Captain America: Civil War was, as expected, a massive hit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It earned $1.15 billion, good for fourth all time in the genre, behind only Marvel’s The Avengers ($1.52B), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.41B), and Iron Man 3 ($1.21B).
There’s no way to reasonably label the fourth highest total in the history of the genre a disappointment, but there were some who felt Civil War could have posted Avengers-type numbers, or at least beat out Iron Man 3. The fact that Captain America: Civil War did not do that while Suicide Squad more than compensated for Batman v Superman not satisfying its billion-dollar expectations meant that Marvel would need a bonafide hit in Doctor Strange.
Despite focusing on a character that was mostly unknown to mainstream audiences and having no advertised appearances from any established MCU favorites, Doctor Strange enjoyed one of the best domestic opening weekends ever for a new Marvel Studios franchise. Not counting team-ups, its $85 million-opening is only surpassed by Iron Man ($98.6M) and Guardians of the Galaxy ($94.3M) in that category.
The success of Doctor Strange carried over into its second weekend, as it dropped only 49.5%. Of the six mainstream superhero movies released this year, Doctor Strange is the only film with a second weekend drop below 50% and the next closest in that statistic is Deadpool at 57.4%.
In addition to its continued success in North America, Doctor Strange has amassed $341 million internationally, bringing its global total to $496. 7 million. That total is sure to go up quite a bit in the coming weeks, but it’s already more than enough to give Marvel Studios the worldwide superhero box office championship in 2016.
To date, Marvel Studios has now earned $1.65 billion at the global box office with its superhero movies this year. That’s over $30 million more than Warner Bros./DC Films and over $300 million more than Fox. Doctor Strange is still just a few weeks into its global run, so the box office gap between Marvel and its competitors will continue to grow before the year is out.
Marvel Studios’ financial success is bolstered by having the best-reviewed, and most-liked superhero movies of the year as well. Captain America: Civil War (90% on Rotten Tomatoes, 75 on Metacritic) and Doctor Strange (90% on Rotten Tomatoes, 72 on Metacritic) each performed better with critics than Deadpool (84% on Rotten Tomatoes, 65 on Metacritic), X-Men: Apocalypse (48% on Rotten Tomatoes, 52 on Metacritic), Batman v Superman (27% on Rotten Tomatoes, 44 on Metacritic), and Suicide Squad (26% on Rotten Tomatoes, 40 on Metacritic).
Critics were not alone in favoring Marvel’s offerings. General audiences preferred the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year, not just with their dollars, but the opinions they shared in exit polls. Both Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange received “A” ratings on CinemaScore. Marvel was the only studio to have a solid “A” rating for each of its films, but Fox came close with an “A” for Deadpool and and “A-” for X-Men: Apocalypse. The DCEU could not get into that range with a “B” for Batman v Superman and a “B+” for Suicide Squad, though the legs of the latter film suggest it was better liked by audiences than its CinemaScore would indicate.
Individual opinions amongst fandom will obviously differ, but in the aggregate, Marvel Studios is the leading superhero moviemaker for 2016. The studio has now released the highest grossing individual film and earned the most global box office revenue in the superhero genre each year since 2010. In most of those years, Marvel Studios was the only studio to release multiple superhero films, but this year was even with all three major players each releasing two films and Marvel still came out on top.
All streaks eventually come to an end and those belonging to Marvel Studios will likely be no different, as there are no signs of less superhero competition in the coming years. 2017 and beyond are sure to offer new challenges, but this day and this year belong to Marvel Studios.