When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament for 2017, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
How do you reinvigorate a franchise, whose last sequel Thor: Dark World was four years ago and received middling reviews (66% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and a good (though not awesome) CinemaScore of A-? One of the superpowers that Marvel boss Kevin Feige possesses is matching the right directors with Marvel properties. We witnessed this with James Gunn’s attachment to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and how his surreal sensibilities elevated that space opera to both commercial and critical success. We saw it again here with Marvel hiring New Zealand independent film director Taikia Waititi for the threequel Thor: Ragnarok. Here’s a filmmaker with a mischievous, precocious, and irreverent sense of self, which I experienced first hand when moderating a Deadline Contenders panel with him, and he was everything that Thor: Ragnarok was. Waititi was in extreme high spirits –even tipsy– during Contenders as the event coincided with his celebrating Ragnarok‘s massive No. 1 $122.7M opening weekend. The former Flight of the Conchords director/scribe delighted the audience by driving our standard Q&A into a detour that included running into the crowd, and fielding questions with the utmost puckish candidness (“It’s my opening weekend, I can say whatever the f**k I want” beamed Waititi). Sequels by nature have a tendency to become worn, but Ragnarok scored the best reviews in the Thor canon on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92% certified fresh and the best CinemaScore ever with a solid A, outstripping the 2011 original’s B+. Similar to other third installments like Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War, Ragnarok busted the curse that threequels face at the B.O. –they’re often the lowest-grossing titles in a franchise– and posted a record high for the trilogy with a domestic total of $315M, and a global take of $853.5M. Another big draw: That Thor vs. Hulk gladiator fight, originally conjured up by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 55 years ago. Waititi landed the Ragnarok directing job off his sizzle reel of cinematic influences, displaying how he would handle the threequel (it included footage from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China along with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a track that made it all the way to the final cut and the Ragnarok‘s marketing materials). After Dark World‘s gloominess, it’s obvious that Feige took a look at the reel and figured out what Thor: Ragnarok needed: An injection of Taika Waititi.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Thor: Ragnarok reaped more in profit than Thor: Dark World, $174.2M to $139.4M. This despite the rise in production costs from $170M to $180M, and participations that grew from an estimated $12M to $50M. Offsetting these costs was the overall 12% rise in total revenues across global theatrical, TV and home entertainment between Dark World and Ragnarok, the latter totaling $644.1M. China’s box office, which only returns around a 27% rental to Disney, jumped from $55.3M on Dark World to $112.2M on Ragnarok, repping a 103% surge. Thor appears again in Avengers: Infinity War on April 27.
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