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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ultimate Geek Fu

One More @#$&* Column About The Avengers

Sometime this week, The Avengers should pass one billion -- that's billion, with a B -- dollars in movie theater ticket sales. I think we can all rest assured that there will be an Avengers 2, and that Joss Whedon's career is protected, at least until he makes another Dollhouse. One billion dollars: that's not too bad, for a movie that's been out in the U.S. for almost an entire two weeks. This one may yet have some legs. Might even pull in a few more dollars, before it goes to Netflix and DVD.

But to put this number into perspective: a billion dollars is about half the cost of one B-2 Spirit bomber, or extends out to about 26 billion annually -- which, according to the most recent stats available, is roughly the same number as the annual net sales revenue for the entire U.S. publishing industry.

Annualizing movie ticket sales numbers is ridiculous, of course. Movies always have very steep sawtooth dropoffs to their earning curves. The dropoff is gentler if the movie generates multiple repeat viewings, as did Star Wars and Titanic, and I expect that will happen in this case: The Kid has already seen The Avengers twice, and The Mrs has expressed a desire to see it again.

(To be honest, she was torn: Dark Shadows, or The Avengers, again? Dark Shadows, or...  Bugger it. The more she looked at Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows, the more she wanted to see The Avengers again; which, considering her usual paranormal romance fixation, is an astonishing development.)

What I'm more impressed by, though, is the potential The Avengers has for generating huge backlist sales. The Mrs even went way out of her way to track down, buy, and watch the Blu-Ray of the 2008 version of The Incredible Hulk. (This, of course, was before the stores were flooded with 'em.) She has now gone back, bought the missing ones, and watched all the Marvel movies in sequence: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America -- not all in one day, thankfully, but still...

I must confess to some sneaking admiration for the way they built this series. The Avengers is best viewed as a direct sequel to Captain America, with strong cross-connections to Thor, but there are little bits of shared continuity going all the way back to Iron Man. Props from one movie show up in another, sometimes even before you know that some background junk in one movie is a key prop in another. The Maguffin in Captain America is quite literally the driving force behind the plot of The Avengers. Characters from one movie pop up in another, and one character actually walks out in the middle of a scene in Iron Man 2 because he's just been called away to appear in a key scene in Thor. The use of Agent Coulson ("Phil? Uh, his first name is Agent.") as the unifying element is simply brilliant, and the whole works, considered as a six-movie exercise in non-linear story-telling, is...inspiring. If you want to learn how to tell a sprawling multi-volume saga, throw away your boxed set of Star Wars. Study these movies.

And pop some popcorn. Pop lots of popcorn.

Let the arguments begin...
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