There are two themes when you read about superhero movies online. One is that we’re in a golden age of superhero movies, and two, that one of them is going to bomb and thus screw it all up for everyone else. But will that happen?
A False History
One can argue this is the case historically ever since the first Superman came along…but, actually, just the opposite has happened. If you start punching years into Wikipedia’s exhaustive list of movies based on comic books, instead you’ll find Hollywood has been steadily ramping up production of comic book adaptations since the 1970s.
In fact, there’s not a single year, since the debut of Superman in 1978, where there hasn’t been at least one, and usually more, movies or TV-movies based on comic books. But, of course, it’s not quantity we’re worried about.
Movies That Suck
No, instead it’s quality. Nerds aren’t worried so much about comic book movies as they are worried about bad ones. And that’s valid; time has not mitigated the bitter disappointment of Batman & Robin. The truth is, we’re worried Marvel’s going to start phoning it in, or DC is going to drop a grimdark Justice League on us, and suddenly it’ll be the late ’90s all over again: Bad scripts, worse direction, and more cheese than Wisconsin.
And, in truth… that’s probably going to happen. Marvel’s been beating the law of averages, but something’s got to go on even the most well-oiled machine when you run it long enough. A bigger problem, though, might be this: Movies, in general, are about to hit a wall.
The Collapse Of The Tentpole
It’s not really a secret why Sony has eight Spidey movies in development, Fox is trying to launch a dozen X-Men franchises at once, and why DC is going straight to the Justice League: Marvel’s shared universe has made a boatload of cash, and Hollywood is about making boatloads of cash. But, as noted Captain America: The Winter Soldier/puppy-hater Vince pointed out, the strategy is about to go all to hell.
To examine why, just look at the “Super Ticket” for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. For $20, you get to see the movie, and you get… a digital copy of the first two movies. Which admittedly isn’t a bad deal; basically you save ten bucks if you don’t already own the movies. But who buys a movie ticket to watch movies at home?
And therein lies the problem. Batman/Superman and the next Avengers are headed for a showdown. DC is already planning three cheaper action flicks a year plus a multitude of TV series. Marvel will possibly have seven different live action drama series on various platforms before the end of the decade.
Furthermore, the strain is starting to show on movie theaters. If even one movie theater chain, at this point, implodes, it crashes Hollywood’s release schedule and will cost Hollywood millions, possibly billions. Guess what? The independent movie theater is being killed by Hollywood forcibly converting everyone to digital, and the major theater chains aren’t doing much better. Regal Cinemas, for example, only got to a profit in 2011 by firing a ton of employees.
Meanwhile, attendance is steadily dropping, and it’s not a big secret as to why: The movies cost too much for a lot of consumers, who can get it cheaper by waiting. That’s fine for now… but how long before enough customers decide to wait?
In short, a crash is inevitable… but, hey, at least it won’t be the fault of comic books.