About Black Widow’s Box Office…

After what seemed like forever Marvel Studios and Disney finally released on July 9, Black Widow, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Predictions and projections were all over the place over how the film would perform and be received.

At first, Black Widow performed very impressively, earning $80 million dollars in its opening weekend. This may be small compared to some of the bigger MCU hits, but terrific for a film release during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the box office worldwide. In fact, Black Widow has set the record for the highest debuting film during the pandemic.

However, the news was quick to turn against the film and Disney when Black Widow had an enormous drop in its second week, earning only $37 million dollars, a drop of 67 percent, the biggest second week drop for an MCU film. This current weekend it earned $11 million dollars, placing it in third place and it actually beat the film that displaced it in its second week, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Currently its box office haul is $315 million worldwide. Yes, that is impressive but it had a budget of $200 million and it looks like it will barely break even if it reaches $400 million by the end of its run. Consider that the average MCU film of late earned roughly $1 billion dollars and its lower earning films averaged around $500 to $600 million. These figures can be used to conclude that Black Widow will be a disappointment in the box office. In fact, there are tons of reports trying to explain its relatively poor performance.

But that is not necessarily the complete picture.

As anyone reading this knows, Disney simultaneously released Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney+, for $30 dollars on top of a subscription to the app. Many people scoffed at paying such a high price for a film that could be seen in theaters for much less. Yet, it earned about $60 million dollars to date and that is aside from its box office haul. Surely, Disney’s accountants will point out that the streaming haul means that the film’s earnings to date are close to $400 million and anything over that is just profit.

It was also heavily pirated online, which certainly robbed Disney of a lot of revenue. Being that the film was completed over a year ago, there were many opportunities and time for it to be pirated before it was officially released.

Many have correctly pointed out that the online access to Black Widow robbed the film of its full box office potential. Theater owners are enraged that Disney did this because it undercut their business, and set a precedent for film releases going forward, although after the upcoming Jungle Cruise is released both in theaters and premier access on Disney+, the entertainment company will discontinue this practice.

Others have said that the film had limited appeal since it was not a big-event film like Avengers: Endgame and that it came out too late. Yes, given the film’s setting and the main character’s eventual fate, the film should have been released right after Captain America: Civil War in 2016 or 2017. But many circumstances beyond the film’s control prevented that and while the film is just a standalone film and is not perfect, it is a solid MCU entry that shone an overdue spotlight on Black Widow herself and her world.

Of course, the wildcard in the film’s performance is the pandemic. Hardcore MCU fans braved going to the theaters to see the film, while everyone else thought it was safer to pay for online access or waiting. However, at the time of Black Widow was released, the perception was that the pandemic was winding down given the huge drops in COVID-19 infections and deaths. But since many idiots refuse to get vaccinated or others are unable to have access to vaccines, the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread like wildfire and increased cases. In other words, the rising cases and deaths encouraged potential theater goers to stay home instead. With the pandemic it is doubtful that even an Avengers: Endgame would have performed as well as it did pre-pandemic.

So, saying Black Widow underperformed is not so clear cut. Given the many hurdles it faced it performed remarkably well and helped bring the MCU back into theaters. Hopefully the next MCU films will fare better and Black Widow itself will gain in popularity later on like many other MCU films.

Handling FOMO During The Comic Book Speculator Boom

Comic books have risen recently in popularity thanks to their crossover appeal in live-action media. What is spurring the boom is that as mainstream properties from Marvel Comics and DC Comics are being shown on screen, film and TV studios are mining other comic book properties, not just obscure Marvel and DC characters but those from independent comic book properties.

As properties like The Walking Dead, Invincible, Sweet Tooth, Locke & Key, The Umbrella Academy and The Boys have captured the imagination of television and streaming audiences (along with lower-tier mainstream characters like Scarlet Witch or Black Lightning), these studios have found a treasure trove of characters and stories to adapt. This in turn has made many of these titles increase in value among comic book collectors and speculators. Meaning the prices for key issues have exploded.

A good example of this situation is with Boom! Studios’ Something is Killing the Children, a horror title that only debuted in 2019, yet its first issue commands a price of roughly $1,000 for a near-mint copy. Other hot titles which are increasing in value include The Department of Truth and Saga.

The value of previously insignificant mainstream titles or issues increased significantly as characters or storylines were adapted. A recent example is with The West Coast Avengers, particularly its original middle run by John Byrne that introduced a white version of Vision and a dark version of Scarlet Witch. Both of whom wound up on the hit TV show, WandaVision. That TV show also led to a huge price increase for Fantastic Four #94, which was the first appearance of Agatha Harkness, the major villain of WandaVision.

For collectors who wish to pick up newly important issues or speculators looking to buy low and sell high, this has created a mad scramble to find these books and it’s a textbook example of FOMO. Among collectors that stands for Fear of Missing Out on obtaining an issue before it becomes too expensive. Many collectors have horror stories of passing up titles then regretting their decision as those books too off in value.

Thanks to the speculator boom and relevance of live-action comic book properties, FOMO has gripped the comic book community hard. But fans should not give in to FOMO. How important is it to have that particular title unless you want to make a quick profit? Those sold-out issues always get reprinted or are available for downloading, so for a true fan who wants to complete a run, these are alternatives.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the value of these titles often has peaks and valleys. Sure, some titles like The Walking Dead still command high prices, but the average costs for the first issue these days is only a couple thousand dollars. Back during the heyday of the title and the TV show, the first issue of The Walking Dead often sold for nearly five figures. That is enough to help pay for a new car!

As seen with the above example, once the hype dies down so will the prices and many times tey plummet to the point that the key issue becomes affordable. Consider The Avengers #55, which was the first appearance of Ultron. Back when Avengers: Age of Ultron premiered that issue was unobtainable for the average collector. Today, it can be bought for under $100, and that is for a decent copy. Another example is Marvel Premiere #15, the first introduction of Iron Fist, which was undervalued for a few years because of how poorly the Iron Fist TV show was received. Now is a good time to buy that issue and it should be soon as speculation has reared its head that the character will re-appear again in live action some time in the future.

A more recent and glaring example is Jupiter’s Legacy. There was some hype and speculation with that title since it was going to be adapted into a TV show, but that show was not well received and cancelled after one season. Right now, anyone trying to sell their copy of Jupiter’s Legacy #1 is lucky to sell it for cover price.

So, there is no reason to give in to FOMO. If a title like Something is Killing the Children becomes too expensive, let it go and stop obssessing over it. If you have to read the story get the trade paperback, read it online or borrow a friend’s copy. The key is to be patient, eventually the prices will settle and if you’re lucky you will find a copy you can afford to buy. More importantly, just enjoy the hobby.

A Brief Look Back At Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time

The previous post about Terminator 2: Judgment Day brought to mind the extinct theme park attraction Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time or T2 3D at Universal Studios.

The attraction was a live-stage show combined with a 3D film that embedded audiences into the action-packed world of the Terminator franchise. T2 3D premiered at Universal Studios Florda on April 27 1996 and closed on October 8, 2017. It also ran in Universal Studios Hollywood from May 6, 1999 to December 31, 2012. The only remaining theme park where it still operates is at Universal Studios Japan, where it opened on March 31, 2001, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how much longer the attraction will run there.

Being that the film was directed by James Cameron himself, T2 3D would be the final time that he directed a Terminator film, even though it was a short film that ran about 12 minutes. It was also the final time that the actors from Terminator 2: Judgment Day reunited to reprise their roles: Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Robert Patrick as the T-1000. Needless to say, it was the last time Cameron directed these actors.

Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time amped the scale and quality of live-stage shows and 3D films for its time and was considered very revolutionary in how it seemlessly combined both aspects to create an immersive experience for visitors that began during the pre-show portion of the attraction.

After entering the attraction’s building, visitors where exposed to company propaganda from Cyberdyne Systems in the form of an annoying PR spokeswoman who appeared live and videos that touted the coming cybernetic and robotic products from the company.

The videos get hacked by Sarah and her teenage son, John Connor, who warn the visitors about the dangers of Cyberdyne complete with footage from the Terminator films. Their video hack ends and the PR spokeswomen dismissed their warnings before ushering the visitors into the main theater for a demonstation of the company’s latest product: the T-70 infantry unit aka prototype terminators.

Several T-70s (actually audio-animatronics) were lined up on walls alongside the seats and demonstrated their firepower. After that, live actors representing the Connors arrive and shut down the demonstration. But before long, a 3D metallic image of the T-1000 forms from a displayed logo of Cyberdyne Systems on a screen in front of the audience and it emerged from the screen as a live actor. The T-1000 kills the spokeswomen to the delight of the audience then starts chasing the Connors. However, a vortex formed in the movie screen and from it a live-action T-800 riding a motorcycle came to the rescue. A brief firefight ensued as clever maneuvering by the live actors hid their faces while overhead monitors displayed the film actors. This was very well choreographed considereing that the live actors ran through the aisles in front of the audience.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The 30th Anniversary Retrospective

Thirty years ago one of the greatest sequels of all time was released, when James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, sometimes called T2, appeared in theaters. Coming off the success of the first Terminator film as well as another classic sequel Aliens, Cameron reintroduced audiences to his nightmarish future world where the planet was taken over by Skynet, a supercomputer gone rogue that was attempting to wipe out the remnants of humanity. As with the first film, the beginning of Terminator 2: Judgement Day shows human resistance forces led by John Connor in a pitched battle featuring colossal hunter killer machines against a ragtag group of human fighters. This is certainly one of the highlights of the film that really hasn’t been matched by later Terminator films. 

The film subsequently moves to the present where the terminator sent back in time (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his career) arrives, this time to protect John Connor as a ten year old. The change of Schwarzenegger from villain in the first film to hero was risky, but it pays off as he and John Connor (Edward Furlong) have a great rapport, with the emotionless killer cyborg learning about what it means to be human from the sarcastic, but strong child. His strength, obviously came from his mother Sarah Connor, played brilliantly by Linda Hamilton.

Her character also has a dramatic change from the first film, where she was an innocent bystander who then transformed into a warrior willing to do anything to protect her child, knowing he is the savior of humanity. Her reunion with her son, and with the machine of her nightmares is a highlight, as is their first encounter in a mental health institution with the iconic T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a liquid metal killer cyborg that ruthlessly hunts down John. The nearly silent and deadly T-1000 is an interesting contrast to Schwarzenegger’s hulking T-800 model. Our heroes’ journey takes them south of the border and finally back to where it all started at Cyberdyne Systems, the place where Skynet itself was created, as they attempt to stop the nuclear war and rise of the machines from ever taking place. The final battle with the T-1000 at a steel mill is another thrilling highlight in a movie filled with show-stopping scenes, as the T-800 makes the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of all humanity, having learned from John about humans in general.

The theme of what it means to be human permeates this film and raises it past the level of just another cool action movie. From Sarah confronting her nightmares of the future and almost losing her humanity in trying to commit murder to change the future, to John seeing his machine protector as a father figure, to the terminator itself telling John at the end that he knows why humans cry, even if he could never do it. T2 has so much to say about the future of humankind and how our fates are not set in stone. This directly affects events in the film when the T-800, John and Sarah attempt to destroy Skynet with the help of its creator Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), who realizes his future creation will result in a nuclear holocaust and threaten humanity with extinction.

Having said all that, the film also has a well deserved reputation as a fantastic and influential action movie, with incredibly exciting stunts and special effects that revolutionized the genre. The “morphing” effect that brought the shape-shifting T-1000 to life forever changed how we saw what was possible in science fiction and films, in general. This directly led to the stunning dinosaur effects in Jurassic Park two years later, as well as other films that demonstrated that new worlds and creatures could be realized. The film also enshrined Terminator as a franchise, which in retrospect had mixed results. The direct follow up, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines took the story to an interesting place and had a great ending, and the next film Terminator: Salvation finally showcased a future war that was hinted at in earlier films. But the most recent films, Terminator: Genisys and Terminator: Dark Fate were both reboots that were lacking, to put it mildly.

However, the franchise is still intact with a new anime series in development at Netflix, and a recently released video game Terminator: Resistance that is an excellent foray into the future war and leads right up to the opening sequence in T2, which is revealed to be the final battle between Skynet and John Connor’s forces before the terminators are sent back in time. All of these sequels, as well as the great and still-missed TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and the Universal Studios theme park attraction T2-3D: Battle Across Time used Terminator 2: Judgement Day as the springboard to new plotlines. That is because T2 did such a great job of showcasing its world of killer cyborgs and brave, yet flawed heroes fighting against a seemingly inevitable fate of death and destruction.

Whatever the future has in store for the Terminator franchise, it can be certain that the influence and impact of Terminator 2: Judgement Day will always be felt, both for its epic scope and excitement, as well for its insights into at what makes us tick. That, along with its equally great predecessor, will keep this film going for another 30 years and beyond and keep it enshrined as not only a brilliant sequel, but a superior film in its own right.

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