April 29, 2019 / 7:08 PM / a month ago

Breakingviews - Lesson of Disney’s ‘Endgame’: Go big or go home

Avengers fans in costume gather at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to attend the opening screening of "Avengers: Endgame" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk are crushing it. The smashing weekend debut of Walt Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” further strengthens the superheroes’ dominance of Hollywood. Movie-goers looking for a small quiet film will increasingly have to stay at home.

The opening first five days of the Marvel spectacle tallied a whopping $1.2 billion at the global box office. In the United States and Canada, ticket sales reached $350 million, more than a third greater than the previous high set by last year’s prequel, “Avengers: Infinity War.” That movie ended on cliffhanger, likely stoking fans’ anticipation of “Endgame.”

Cramming more than a dozen comic book characters and several storylines into one movie may seem like a cynical and risky ploy. But Disney knows the script cold. Paced by the breakthrough superhero film “Black Panther,” the Magic Kingdom had more than a quarter of the share of the domestic movie market last year, according to Box Office Mojo, breaking the industry’s record.

Nine of the top 10 grossing movies last year were superhero films, animated features or action flics like the latest “Mission: Impossible” installment. The only exception, the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” just snuck in at No. 10. The success of the genre almost assures that theater chains, eager to attract a younger audience that fills the bulk of seats, will gamely dedicate more screens to the likes of Captain Marvel.

Blockbusters don’t share the spoils, though. Global box office sales increased just 1 percent last year to about $41 billion, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. By contrast, home-entertainment spending rose 16 percent to nearly $56 billion, the MPAA reckons. That growth is fueling a video streaming war. Amazon disclosed in a filing last week that it spent nearly $2 billion on music and video-related content during the first quarter as it seeks to repeat the success films like the critically acclaimed “Moonlight.”

The endgame for movie studios, like film buffs, is a stark choice: Go big or go home.

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