The release of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp has pushed the Marvel Cinematic Universe to more than $17 billion worldwide in unadjusted totals (numbers via Box Office Mojo). The Peyton Reed-directed blockbuster is Marvel’s 20th movie and its 20th consecutive #1 opening.
In November, Thor: Ragnarok pushed the Disney-owned studio across the $5 billion mark at the domestic box office — making it the first franchise to accomplish the feat — and to more than $13 billion worldwide.
The months since saw the release of Black Panther — now the third-highest domestic grosser of all time, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and James Cameron’s Avatar — and Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel’s first $2 billion-plus grosser. Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment for just $4 billion in 2009.
Marvel now holds four of the top ten highest-grossing movies of all time: Infinity War (#4, $2.039b), The Avengers (#6, $1.518b), Avengers: Age of Ultron (#8, $1.405b), and Black Panther (#9, $1.346b).
Marvel’s $17 billion lifetime earnings tops similar heavyweights Star Wars ($9.47b), J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World ($8.53b), the Batman franchise (including all iterations, from Batman 1989 onwards) ($4.90b), and the James Bond franchise ($5.01b).
In the decade since Marvel launched the shared MCU in 2008’s Iron Man, every Marvel Studios production earned at least a “fresh” score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Of its 20-movie filmography, only two — 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World — failed to boast the “certified fresh” classification, coming in fresh with 67% and 66% percent, respectively. The 20 consecutive #1 openings is unprecedented.
“[Marvel Studios chief] Kevin Feige is doing the same thing Stan Lee did for the comic books in the ’60s; he keeps everyone on the same page,” UCLA theater, film and TV lecturer Jonathan Kuntz told The Wrap in May of Marvel Studios’ continued success.
“Doesn’t seem like any of the other major studios have found the right person to guide them, or even the right franchise.” He added: “It’s almost like these films have been in development since the ‘60s,” in a time when Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr. and others created many of the characters who would go on to anchor the MCU in the modern age.
Marvel has yet to be awarded gold for their efforts, but a lack of Academy Awards success doesn’t faze Feige.
“Maybe it’s easy to dismiss VFX or flying people or spaceships or billion dollar grosses. I think it is easy to say that you have already been awarded in a certain way,” Feige said during a June Produced By conference. “[Alfred] Hitchcock never won best director, so it’s very nice, but it doesn’t mean everything. I would much rather be in a room full of engaged fans.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp is now playing. The studio next releases Captain Marvel March 8, Avengers 4 May 3, and Spider-Man: Far From Home July 5, 2019.