Ever since the release of _Spider-Man_ in 2002, superhero movies have been feverishly churned out and dominated the box office. The majority of superhero movies are released for the summer blockbuster season and attract huge numbers at the cinemas.
The biggest box office draws have come from America’s largest comic book publishers, Marvel and DC Comics. Marvel has brought us Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America and The Hulk, among others. DC Comics has given us the likes of Batman, Superman and the Green Lantern.
2012 has truly been the year of the blockbuster superhero movie. The release of The Avengers earlier this year has broken all sorts of box office records. It now holds the US record for the biggest opening weekend of all time, grossing over $207 million. The next biggest opening weekend for a superhero movie is The Dark Knight Rises, also released this year, with a gross of over $160 million.
Such is the popularity of The Avengers that it has grossed almost $610 million in the US after adjusting for inflation, putting it in the top 30 grossing movies of all time in the US. The Dark Knight follows closely behind, grossing $595 million.
So what is it about the superhero genre that has made it so popular among moviegoers?
Most superhero movies are adapted from comic books published by major companies such as Marvel and DC Comics. The films are normally action-packed special effects spectacles that appeal predominantly to 18-25 year old males, while comic book fans who have been collecting these comics throughout the decades are also eagerly anticipating a film version of their favorite superheroes. This widens the potential audience and therefore the box office profits.
Movie distributors are generally more willing to take a chance with a story from an established source, such as a comic book, rather than original scripts. Since you already have an established fan base with the die-hard comic book fans, the movie will already be on the road to box office success.
Many moviegoers go to the cinemas to watch movies as a form of escapism. With relatively recent major events including the September 11 attacks, the war in Iraq and the global financial crisis, people have looked to popcorn films like superhero movies to escape, if only for a couple of hours, these depressing issues.
The initial success of films like Spider-Man and Batman Begins has spawned several sequels and become franchised. Although Batman Begins was a very financially successful movie, its sequel, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises have surpassed the box office takings of the first film, and combined with the Batman films of the 1980s and 1990s, have made almost $2.6 billion at the US box office. The first Spider-Man and its two sequels have also been consistently high-grossing, combining to make almost $1.7 billion.
The movie-going public continue to flock to superhero movies, and their continuing popularity can also be judged by how they are rated by the public. Of the two major superhero movies released in 2012, The Avengers has a rating of 8.5 out of 10 from IMDB users, and The Dark Knight Rises has a rating of 8.9 out of 10. This places them both well within the IMDB Top 250 movies list.
Since the year 2000, films made by DC Comics have bought in a box office revenue of just over $2 billion, while Marvel films have bought in $5.7 billion in the U.S. With plenty more films and sequels on the way, it looks like the superhero movie genre is here to stay.