It’s been a decade and a half since the first “Iron Man” movie kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and four years since “Avengers: Endgame” smashed box office records. But the pandemic disrupted moviegoers’ habits, and new heroes (“Eternals”) and villains (“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”) don’t seem to have excited fans. The DC Extended Universe hasn’t fared much better with “Black Adam” and “Shazam 2: Fury of Gods.” Are we living in the age of superhero fatigue?
The numbers tell a more nuanced story. Yes, we are watching a box office decline, but superhero movies remain highly in demand, according to Parrot Analytics‘ data, which takes into account consumer research, streaming, downloads and social media, among other engagement.
The 10 most in-demand superhero movies had demand of 34 times the average or more in the first quarter of 2023, a level reached by less than 1% of the movies tracked by Parrot Analytics. And “Guardians of the Galaxy” just opened with a domestic box office of $114 million.
However, it’s clear that movie events and specific characters can make a difference. In their first 45 days in theaters, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had the highest demand among superhero films, which means that the audience was all about the reunion of their beloved characters.
For DC, Elseworlds movies, not the titles from the DC Extended Universe, have so far yielded the most in-demand premieres for the studio, which points to just how much of a challenge new DC heads James Gunn and Peter Safran face in rebooting the Extended Universe.
If we analyze the two studios’ portfolios over the last five years, Marvel is in the lead, with five titles registering exceptional demand. “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” had the highest demand during the time by a wide margin. The titles with the lowest demand in the period were the latest releases from both franchises, indicating a need for a fresh approach.
After a decade of blockbusters, the superhero movie is entering a new era of challenges. Although there still is strong global demand for the genre, new releases will need to bring something different to the battlefield in order to succeed. With a new phase for both universes on the horizon, the next movies will mark a crucial turning point — for better or for worse.
Lucas Mascarenhas is a partner insights analyst at Parrot Analytics, a WrapPRO partner. For more from Parrot Analytics, visit the Data and Analysis Hub.