Movies · Sports

Why did Age of Ultron fail to match box office expectations?

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Sure, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were able to defeat Loki, and thwarted the plans of Ultron, but the Avengers could not rise above the drawing power that is Floyd “Money” Mayweather. In fact, a huge coalition of sports over the weekend successfully torpedoed the sequel’s chances of not only cracking the $200M opening weekend plateau, but also matching the opening numbers of 2012’s The Avengers.

The Avengers had a $207.4M opening weekend. Pro.BoxOffice.com predicted a $221M opening weekend for Age of Ultron. BoxOfficeGuru.com weighed in with a $214 estimate. They rarely are this much off target. Not only was Age of Ultron’s numbers below expectations, so was every other movie in the top ten this weekend. The rule of thumb is a 40%-50% drop-off for a movie’s second and third weekends numbers. With the exception of Cinderella, every major movie’s numbers were down from 50% to 70%. If you bet the under, (like Keith did), you did all right. Otherwise, it wasn’t just Pacquiao fans in Manila that were crying on Monday.

Everything was aligned perfectly for Disney and Marvel Studios, as far as the movie theater business end was concerned. There was no films released by the major studios the week prior. The only other blockbuster of 2015 so far, Furious 7, was already starting to wane. They even had the critics in its corner. While a Rotten Tomatoes score of 75% is less than the 92% score of its 2012 predecessor, it is still well above the threshold to received the site’s “Certified Fresh” label. It is true that a plethora of negative reviews can derail a tent-pole blockbuster sequel, but that is not the case here.

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Did you know that the first Saturday of May is Free Comic Book Day? It makes sense that Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios would try to capitalize on that and create some synergy. But there is something else that takes place on the first Saturday of May. An event that has taken place for 141 times, or to put it bluntly, an event that predates Free Comic Book Day by at least 127 years. And that is the Kentucky Derby. And while horse racing in general has been relegated to near-oblivion in the U.S. consciousness, the Kentucky Derby is still one race that is still a household name, and still maintains the pomp and gallantry of a major sporting event. And until there is a three-year-old colt named “BlackWidowShouldHaveHerOwnMovie” that is favored to win horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Saturday will still be dominated and centered around the racetrack at Churchill Downs, in Lexington, KY, and not your not-so-local and hard-to-find comic book store.

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As much as they try, Hollywood is still not capable of matching the drama of a live sporting event. And one of the most dramatic events in sports is a Game 7. Since sports has not used a Best-of-Nine playoff format since the 1920’s, a Game Seven is the ultimate game of a series. The winner advances (or wins it all of in the Championship Round), and the loser’s season is over. The only thing that make a Game 7 more dramatic is if they game is won on the final play at the last moment. And that is what we had in Los Angeles Saturday night, as the Los Angeles Clippers survived with a 111-109 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, thanks to Chris Paul hitting a jump shot with 1.0 seconds left in regulation. Before the NBA Playoffs, many fans lamented the fact that Los Angeles and San Antonio had to face one another in the first round, and not in the second or third round. And while the 2015 NBA Playoffs in general has been one big snore-fest, Clippers vs Spurs was the lone, bright exception. For the sake of completeness, I must mention that there is a far superior playoffs going on at the same time, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, but its popularity and rating are not as large as they should be, and even a Rangers fan like myself is not delusional to think their second round matchup against the Washington Capitals pushed the public consciousness’ needle one iota.

That leads us to the Main Event. For all of the hype and hoopla the House of Mouse created for Age of Ultron, it was still overwhelmed and overshadowed by the latest “Fight of the Century.” (Note: “Fight of the Century” is a silly moniker to label an event when there is eight-and-a-half decades left in the century, but considering the sad state of boxing, it is highly unlikely that the sport will still be around before 2099.) Don’t believe me, just look at Disney’s own cable TV network, ESPN. Disney could have used the opportunity to cross-promote Ultron, (not unprecedented), but instead, the “Worldwide Leader” spent all week in Las Vegas, NV, promoting the welterweight class fight between Floyd “Money” Mayweather, and Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao. What makes this more unusual is that ESPN had no financial stake in the match. One of the biggest criticisms of ESPN is that they only cover sports that they have a financial stake in televising, i.e.: the NCAA, the NBA, MLB, and especially the NFL, and ignore the sports they don’t broadcast, i.e.: the NHL. The fight was on Pay-Per-View. And let’s face it: as far as villains are concerned, Floyd Mayweather is a much bigger lightning rod than a James Spader voiced robot. When it came to food related promotional tie-ins, the American stomachs voted for to watch the fight while ordering a pizza and wings combo, than go to the multiplex and get a souvenir 64 ounce cup.

There is one other factor I did not mention. And that is the 3D screenings. When I looked for showtimes this weekend, I noticed that the 3D screening outnumbered the 2D screenings by a 5:1 ratio. Speaking for myself, I prefer going to a 2D screening. Not only do I not want to pay the extra money for the 3D experience, I do not want to wear the silly glasses. I believe I am not alone in believing that the 3D gimmick was overplayed and gratuitous. Many of the films that got the 3D treatment didn’t need it, and those that did, had 3D “money shots” that were painfully shoehorned in the movie in order to justify the 3D price, and ruined the pace and flow of the movie proper.

Finally, if you don’t believe me, Variety asks the same question.

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