Superhero State Of The Union: Are These Franchises Too Big To Fail?
X-MenFranchise History: Since 2000, the X-Men pictures have grossed $2.3 billion for Fox, or $1.5 billion if you don't count the separate Wolverine films. The highest grossing film in the series is X-Men: The Last Stand, which collected $459 million in global receipts in 2006.
Last Time Out: While Fox debuted The Wolverine last year, the more relevant recent picture in the series is 2011's X-Men: First Class, which landed at $353 million worldwide.
Current Entry: The best comparison for this year's X-Men: Days Of Future Past isn't a superhero film at all: Universal experimented with the Fast And Furious films before realizing the original stars were the draw all along, reuniting them for Fast And Furious. That fourth film collected the biggest opening in the series to that point, turning a hit series into a genuine phenomenon. 2015's seventh Fast And The Furious is a serious threat to approach a billion dollars.
Days Of Future Past takes the same approach, teaming the newer characters in this franchise with original lynchpins Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. The effort is thorough: even minor characters like Rogue, Colossus and Beast return for this entry, teaming with the group introduced in First Class. Fan anticipation is high, even if the particulars of the core time travel story are not being clearly emphasized by the ad campaign. The series hasn't been able to regain momentum from The Last Stand. Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class grossed more than $100 million less than The Last Stand, and last year The Wolverine, the first 3D X-film, rang up the lowest domestic take of all of the films. But there's a very good chance moviegoers who have caught the original films on cable for the last decade will turn this into a sizable hit.
Long-Term Prognosis: Wolverine is the series' most marketable character, and he's front-and-center for Days Of Future Past. But it's pretty gutsy to sideline him for 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, a direct sequel to this film. With director Bryan Singer on board both Days Of Future Past and Apocalypse, it seems like an emphasis is being placed on establishing a solid, coherent mythology for these films after an abrupt shift from X2: X-Men United to the Singer-less X-Men: The Last Stand.
A steady outlook will help Fox build beyond Apocalypse: in addition to a new Wolverine they are mulling an X-Force spinoff film, and separate entries for characters like Mystique, Gambit and Deadpool. Days Of Future Past is rumored to be the second most expensive film in history: if it can't gross half-a-billion worldwide, this series might have to think smaller, since it can't be cheap to wrangle a cast this big in an effects-heavy action film.
Trending Up: The X-series hasn't necessarily recovered from The Last Stand, but the films have a tremendous goodwill with audiences. Last year's numbers for The Wolverine, and the accompanying enthusiasm for a post-credits sequence teasing Days Of Future Past, suggests expectations that wouldn't be present had Fox simply moved ahead with a direct sequel to First Class.
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