Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members. Welcome to the 2nd edition of Clint’s Corner where we have a thinking man's discussion once a quarter looking at the of the analytics segment of the industry including trends, pitfalls, and future happenings within our hobby. If any of you missed the 1st edition, it can be found here.
Okay so let’s get started! In complete transparency, I don’t think any truer words can be spoken than the above in this day and age on our planet. If by chance any of you are not familiar with who that is, it’s Superman’s Dad instilling some powerful knowledge into our red caped icon. With all the unimaginable horror witnessed in today’s world, we do have the capacity for good. Unfortunately, the “light” is just too dim right now in some circumstances.
Alright, with Endgame in full swing as you read this article, there is no better time to hit the pause button and reflect back on how we have got to this point in terms of Superhero movies. This included their effects on the box office, society, and families. No, I don’t just mean just the MCU, I mean go back further. Not too far like in late 1930s with Mandrake the Magician.
How about we settle in around the late 1970s with the release of Star Wars & Superman. Ugh this time travel stuff, sound familiar? Anyways, let’s examine this chunk of time, roughly 40 years and access how we reached this pinnacle of film, including the importance of this cultural phenomenon going forward. I don’t just mean within the movie theatres, I mean in our lives…
There is something magical I witnessed in line to grab my snacks before Endgame. In reality, it became the Genesis of this piece. While the crowds were deep in line anxiously awaiting their food, there was a moment in time that everything slowed down. It was several children of both different genders and races mimicking our hero’s on the big screen.
It wasn’t just Marvel dress ups, it was DC too. They frolicked around in such innocence dressed in gear and playing out their imaginations. Wonder Woman pretend lassos, Spidey and his webs being squirted out with the clicking of wrists, and a make believe Cap shield stopping any objects as examples. It reminded me of our playgrounds and movie experiences as kids. Yet in today’s world of cynicism, stereotypes, and racial tension it seemed so much more important.
You see that was a snapshot is what’s good in this world. I have no doubt this was being emulated across theatres throughout the country. In scanning across the rest of the lines I noticed friends and family all different ages and nationalities buzzing with one common thing shared and that was the release of this movie – at that time, at that place, and in this world. I am not going to get political within these words don’t worry.
Yet for all the outside noise to stop for just three hours and enjoy this escapism known as the MCU it was a rare sight to behold.
The result? Our heroes, Our bond
At the beginning of this article, I spoke to the last 40+ years of our superhero movies. Let’s look at what this has accomplished turning film cells into money, and the ripple effect on the industry. The above statistics show the largest film “universes” and their contributions to the box office as a whole. One of the interesting things of note is how consistent Star Wars has been with a strong, steady upward trend decade after decade. In contrast, look at the MCU. It’s shot up quickly like a rocket. Stockholders love stuff like this! Hell it's almost a vertical line. Which ones better? I will leave that up to you, but IMO these are both impressive feats.
Here’s the alarming data, movie tickets continue to shrink. Why is this? Are people going to the movies less because of early Blu ray releases, or the effect of streaming services like Netflix? Actually, no these do NOT have a role in the declining ticket sales.
The below study is fascinating to those who like stats and their relationships with our human consumption. We as a society view our content in different ways. How does this translate to our superhero movies if at all? I will start with the data so you know what you are looking at when viewing.
► All results in this study are based on an EY survey fielded in February 2018 that asked questions about:
► Movie theatre attendance in 2017
► Streaming consumption in 2017
► Demographic information (race, age, income, etc.)
► The survey included 2,002 respondents, roughly 80% of whom saw at least one movie in theatres in 2017.
► Unless otherwise noted, the survey results presented in this study only include respondents who saw at least one movie in theatres and streamed at least one hour of online content per week in 2017. These 1,418 respondents are called “dual- consumers” (DC’s).
Ok so here we go…
*Yes this data is from late 2017, but it you look at the numbers in today’s market in theory they really are the same
Let’s first look at the demographics of the study to ensure we understand just what the data is based on in terms of people
Alright, here is the meat and potatoes with today’s world…
Now here comes the “ah hah” moment of clarity…
I realize that’s a lot of data.
The cliff notes are those who attend movies at a higher number, in return steam more. This is the opposite of what many of us thought, myself included. In addition, just because you do not frequent movies, does not mean you steam!
This is more of what we thought the norm would be. Gen X’s attend more movie theatres, while the Millenials spend more time streaming. Furthermore, race /ethnicity really did not vary in data consumed on either side.
Finally, for those true analytical folks, here is the “how” behind the study to ensure accuracy
In speaking to that comic movie faitique, it’s not as relevant as some make it out to be within film circles. Will this trend continue to move upward? Perhaps, however as long as this is Hollywood’s bread and butter within all film mediums, the studios will continue to pump them out. All we can ask for is it’s quality over quantity.
Okay so what’s with the dissertation in movie sales and how does this play into comics? Comic book movies in a sense are a double edged sword. On one side they get people off their couches and out to the theatres as this is the only way to view those blockbusters. This is the lifeline of the movie industry right now make no mistake about it. On the other side, what would tinseltown be without superhero movies?
Allow me to phrase it another way, are the comic movies getting better?, or is other movie genres getting worse? Is the source material (comics) just deeper and more robust than other content such as books or original screenplays? The ROI of a movie is numero uno for the studios. Where are the dramas, or comedies that are ensuing the companies revenue? It's something to think about.
Furthermore, let’s take look at a few additional items. First, these movies and many more are what strengthens the superhero theme in pop culture to this day. Even though comic books are still being read by thousands, movies are a new media to present the same characters to a new audience.
The fans of this generation (just like the fans before them) have grown up with these characters and will continue to watch and enjoy our heroes in their entirety. Overall, superheroes have had a great influence on not only children and fans but on pop culture in a whole, and in many cases it has influenced parts of history.
In addition, the superhero movie genre has evolved. It used to be the case that the US box office was the end all, be all for commercial success. But, for recent superhero movies, the US typically accounts for no more than $4 out of every $10 made. Furthermore, the growing popularity can be theorized for what these heroes stand for in society.
Here’s a great example. When has three words had such a profound effect on moviegoers and fans throughout the world. Witness the gravity of this situation for those who have seen GOTG, and the subsequent selfless act to protect his friends
We are Groot
“Superheroes display virtue in the face of the worst humanity has to offer. More than anything, what justifies the admiration of superheroes “is the way they handle the entire scope of life as a human and still end up making the altruistic choices for which they are known.”
Meagan McKay, The Artifice
In taking Groot a step further, here is a top 10 cover of all time for me – 1:50 Dale Keown. Great insight by the ole tree
People can look to superheroes as beacons of selflessness in an age perceived as corrupt and full of negativity. Here’s a great example taken from Action Comics Vol 1 #775 in March, 2001
“Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice become the reality we all share—I’ll never stop fighting.”
So what does all this mean? Over the past few decades, superheroes went from being comic-book characters to movie stars… from being food for nerds to being an integral part of popular culture. They’ve become so ingrained in our psychology, economy, and society that it seems we can’t now live without them.
As we go through each decade of American history, it is clear that the comic book medium has been a direct reflection of the times. Whether the time warranted our heroes to battle Hitler, anti-semitism, the KKK, racism, injustice, diversity, women LGBTQ rights, or just give one child some peace and confidence to be themselves, these heroes matter. They shine through the darkness and the challenges everything our society throws at them. In short, these heroes rise above and are a constant ideal for us to strive towards.
The comic book medium is extremely powerful and it’s impact resonates with the youngest child to the oldest person. These stories fill our imaginations with happiness, hope, emotion, and love to name a few. They give those a voice who might not have the courage to speak up against prejudices of any kind.
Okay so let’s put a bow around all of this, as we have covered a lot of material. With movies such as Endgame we saw a common bond between millions of people throughout the world. These events bring people together, when so many tear at the fabric of humanity. Without the source material (comics) there would be know MCU, DC movies, AMC staple shows, pay cable station material, etc, etc, etc. While movie theater ticket sales continue to dwindle, this past weekend was a reminder that they are not dead.
With good material, people will get off the couch. I dread to see what Hollywood would look like with these films. While there may be a bit of fatigue that is setting in, there is no shortage of friends, family, and couples that will come together for a common cause. At the end of the day, family is family and just like within the comic panels, most would do anything for those whom they love.
I will leave you with one more example of this very idea. Wow, is this Jor-El guy smart and care about his son! That’s nothing different than you and I, it's just we don’t need a cape or powers to achieve these traits.
Our Hero, Our Bond
A penny for your thoughts