Over the weekend Deadpool broke all sorts of box office records. Here is how it all stacked up.
- #1 opening weekend ($132.75M) ever in Fox history
- #1 opening weekend ever for an R-rated film
- #1 February opening weekend
- #1 Winter opening weekend
- #2 opening weekend ever for an original Marvel property title
- #5 opening weekend ever for a Marvel property title
Even more impressive is that this all happened with a very small $58 million budget that is very low by Hollywood standards for a major title with visual effects and a star. The fact that the film was rated R that has been very taboo for Hollywood with action films that they are so desperate to get a wilder audience that a film sometimes gets truncated to a PG-13 like the Robocop remake and Live Free or Die Hard that actually hurt them at the box office and audiences were not impressed with watered down versions of the films.
Hollywood has become so obsessed with $100 plus tent-pole films that they only know how to make three types of budget films today. They know how to make fairly low-budget horror films ($10 to $20 million), Comedies and “Chick Flicks” ($20 to $40 million) and then the tent-poles that are more like $150 to $200 million. What they have lost is the middle range films that need a bit bigger budget more elaborate things like visual effects, location shooting, stars, or big physical action scenes. They used to make these types of films but with pushing the date of a release over taking the time to make a film has had a real negative effect on budgets.
Superhero films are rarely cheap and getting more expensive all the time. Marvel cheapest was Ant-Man $130 million and Captain America: The First Avenger $140 million. On the high-end are the two Avengers films at $220 million for the first and $250 million for Age of Ultron. Most of the others have been $150 to $180 million. Warner has spent a ton on the DC Comics movies the Nolan Batman films were $150/$185/$250 respectively. Man of Steel was $225 million and Batman Vs. Superman is rumored at $410 but that includes marketing but I would imagine its actual budget is close to $300 million. Even the Suicide Squad is pretty pricey at $250 million. Fox cheapest was the new Fantastic Four reboot at $120 million the X-Men films have ranged from The Wolverine at $120 million to X-Man First Class $160 million and X-Men Days of Future Past $200 million. Sony ponied up for Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 at $230 million and $255 million respectively and they had to make a deal to co-share him with Marvel because the second one tanked pretty badly.
On the more modest budgeted superhero/comic book based films are Hellboy $66 million for the first and $85 million for the second. Dredd was one of the cheapest at $50 million and Kingsman was $81 million and even Constantine was not too over the top with a $100 million budget when you compare it to the others.
You can look at the failure of Jonah Hex ($47 million) and The Losers ($25 million) at Warner Bros. that didn’t help the situation of more modest budget and non traditional and more oddball comic characters. With Jonah Hex the problem wasn’t the character but the film was pretty bad with the lack of story and direction. In the case of The Losers the films marketing didn’t click and the fact that the comic and movie were inspired by 1980’s action flicks like Lethal Weapon and is quite a fun film and deserved better than it got.
Now we come back to Deadpool that did a lot of things right. First off the budget of $58 million was a good size for a not well-known character to the general public. You can see every cent of the budget on the screen and they spent the money wisely. In the case of Colossus he is a full CGI character that is used sparingly and saved on having a regular actor in his non metallic form. Another cost savings was Reynold’s possible deal to be in the film. I’m guessing that it was not a huge payday for him and hopefully he took a percentage of the gross as part of his deal. He is a name value to the movie but not a marquee name like Tom Cruse, Tom Hanks or Leonardo DiCaprio that can get a film made with their involvement. The film was shot in Canada that saved a lot on the budget along with limit location shooting and limited sets. I have to applaud director Tim Miller for an amazing first feature film. He does a lot of smart things with the movie like pacing of the film. While there are a lot of visual effect he uses them to complement the story and not make the whole film about them. He also gathered a very stong supporting cast for the film with Morena Baccarin, T.J. MIller, Brianna Hilderbrand, and the amazing Leslie Uggams to name a few.
FOX really has to be applauded for the marketing of the film to non comic book fanboys. While the fanboy community is quite vocal they don’t necessarily translate into box office success. FOX hit the mainstream market hard with trailer premiers on Conan O’Brien, cleaver trailers and posters. PSA for Brest Cancer and Testicular Cancer. Heck they even got Betty White to do a foul-mouthed review a few days before the release that was as funny as the film. The other thing was that the film was unafraid to go for a hard R rating. The film pulled no punches with either the humor or the violence in the film that made him so well-loved in the comics. The only possible downside to the R rating is that now every studio in town is going to look at the rating as a possible selling point and in fact FOX just announced that Wolverine 3 will be R rated. This rush to have a superhero film have an R rating could be good or bad and its way too early to tell.
The other big win for the movie is its originality. While the superhero genre is not new Deadpool took a path that has been sadly missing from the genre. It stayed true to the source material that is so rare in Hollywood it’s like seeing Bigfoot. The makers of the film stayed true to the source material and still had a lot of fun with it. If you are going to adapt something the whole point of it is that you use what made the comic great in the first place and in this case it was the script that set the great tone for the film. The writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick who also wrote the snappy script for Zombieland stayed true to Deadpool but made the film feel fresh and new. Again Hollywood needs to let the writers do their job and in this case the film was not written by committee or re-written do death. It takes a page from independent films where the script is the reason the film is made. A script cost nothing to write so there is no excuse for a bad script for a film and sadly is not the case so often.
So if there is one thing that Hollywood needs to take away from the success of Deadpool is it’s ability to have a reasonable budget and a smart and snappy script with at team both in front of and behind the camera working to make the best film possible and having the studio not interfere with the making of it. Let the marketing team go wild and try different things and have the talent involved with the marketing too. There are many good lessons that can be taken away from Deadpool but I’m guessing that per usual that Hollywood will take a good thing and screw it all up because they are so good at ruining a good thing.