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When it comes to the box office, Marvel Studios films are not unlike a rampaging Hulk, generating unprecedented success to which every other franchise and studio aspires. Just this year, Black Panther landed in third place on the all-time domestic box office charts, and Avengers: Infinity War broke the opening weekend record to kick off a $2 billion run. (currently ranked fourth all time worldwide). As a result, judging the MCU purely by how titles perform financially is a given. Yet, even though Marvel Studios is a part of a publicly traded company, the bottom line is not the only way Marvel judges its success. Audience reception and a film's staying power are also important, as Kevin Feige recently explained,
Of course it's: Do people like it? Do people have an experience that they are still talking about a day later? A week later? A month later? And secretly, I've always hoped for years later. I've always thought you can't really tell an impact of a film until years have gone by. Now, years have gone by for us. Ten years since Iron Man. And the fact is that all of these characters are still... well, are more popular than they've ever been. And people want to see them again and see how they've changed, like Thor did in Ragnarok, like Iron Man has over the movies, like Captain America has. That's exciting for us.
Obviously Kevin Feige hopes that the audience likes the movies that his company is putting out, but that goes without saying, and isn't the most ambitious hurdle to clear. Beyond that, though,Feige and Marvel are looking to make films that have staying power - and doing that is much, much more difficult, and is also kind of impossible to plan for. Being relevant years later is a barometer of success that isn't readily apparent when a movie is first released. But as the producer told The Costco Connection, Marvel Studios is no longer the new kid on the block: it has been around for a decade, and its first film Iron Man still holds up, is still widely discussed, and is considered one of the most important comic book movies in history.
As noted, part of what is key to staying power is getting the audience invested in the characters and their journeys, and that is clearly what has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now characters that were once considered to be Marvel's B-level characters (with Spider-Man and the X-Men initially the unavailable A-listers) are some of the most popular characters in pop culture. Of course, even a decade isn't long enough to truly judge how a movie will resonate long-term. Kevin Feige elaborated about his desire for Marvel movies to be relevant decades from now, like the true classics of his youth:
To me, that is a true testament. I think of the movies that I loved as a kid---like Back to the Future, like the Star Wars movies--that still feel as relevant today as they've ever been. That's the true test. It's been 30-plus, 40 years. We've got another 30 years to figure out what our impact has been. But 10 years on, it feels pretty good.
It will take a while to see if the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies become evergreen classics like Back to the Future, but people already talk about it as this generation's Star Wars, so now it's just a waiting game to see if that's true. Every filmmaker wants their movie to be a classic that holds up, but it is still cool to hear this from a company as successful as Marvel. Even though Kevin Feige knows that they have had major success so far over the past decade, there are still higher goals to which he aspires, and with the Marvel movies getting better with each Phase, they may be on their way to achieving them.