With overwhelmingly positive reviews and both fan interest and Fandango preorders tracking higher than any X-Men team movie so far, could Logan overtake Deadpool to become the highest-grossing Fox/Marvel partnership?
The movie opens this morning after the now-typical 7 p.m./10 p.m./midnight screenings in most cities last night. Those initial box office numbers may or may not give insight into just how big a weekend fans can expect (Man of Steel's preview numbers were comparable for The Avengers, for instance, but ultimately it didn't equal the over $200 million the Marvel team-up did in its opening frame), so it will likely be the middle of the day tomorrow before box office analysts can really give an idea of where the movie will land this weekend and what that means for the Logan's long-term box office potential.
That said, the film is expected to open at around $80 million in the North American market and $170 million worldwide. That's about comparable to the initial projections that Deadpool absolutely annihilated when it opened at $130 million domestically last year, on the way to a franchise-best $363 million total box office.
Those numbers might sound out of reach for Logan if it doesn't ape Deadpool's success and blow away expectations -- and indeed they may be -- but the movie does have a few things going for it.
First off, we've now seen two consecutive R-rated superhero movies blow away box office expectations, with Deadpool and then the limited-release Batman: The Killing Joke. It doesn't seem unfair to speculate that Hollywood's current projection model still isn't sure how to handle huge, franchise-driven action and superhero movies that carry the R-rating. That "R," after all, has historically been understood as a major limiting factor for a film's box office success, but as the importance of big brands and big franchises grows, the ratings seem to be less and less of an impediment.
Hell, Fandango's weekly newsletter released a poll finding that 71% of audience members want to see more R-rated superhero films.
Second, the film's reviews are absolutely ecstatic. It's currently sitting at around 10% higher on Rotten Tomatoes than Deadpool has, and while movies with low Rotten Tomatoes scores can routinely overcome that to become big hits (just ask Warner Bros., who had both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad do that last year), the review aggregator can still be a pretty accurate positive indicator for success. Big franchise tentpoles with a 90%+ Rotten Tomatoes rating typically have a lot of repeat business, which means a long and successful run at the box office. Recent examples of this include Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Marvel's The Avengers.
Third, if we are -- as suggested a couple of times above -- in an era of brand-driven success, this movie should be rewarded for being a satisfying finale of sorts. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart -- who have been playing their roles for almost 20 years and who are the de facto faces of the X-Men brand -- have both indicated they're not coming back after this, making it the last time fans will see those iterations of the beloved characters.
For fans of the X-Men comics, it's easy to remember a time when Wolverine was hands-down the most popular and marketable character in the franchise, and the rise of Deadpool took everyone by surprise, even though it was far more gradual in the books than it has been on film. The next few weeks might prove once and for all who has that "title" in the eyes of the broader, moviegoing public.
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