2016 is the year of superhero versus movies, and the first shot was fired over the weekend by Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice; which defied largely negative reviews for a gigantic opening weekend but also set a dubious new record for a decline in ticket sales over two days. But regardless of what audiences thought of the film, soon enough most will have seen it — which means all eyes will soon turn to the next good guy vs. good guy epic, Captain America: Civil War. The film will attempt to match BVS’ success with a big-roster brawl featuring The Avengers and several new characters making their debut.
It remains to be seen whether or not audiences are already burned-out on hero’s fighting each other, but Marvel is clearly confident in their investment. In fact, the studio announced today they will screen the film nearly a month early on April 13 at CinemaCon.
Formerly known as Showest, CinemaCon is a trade show for member of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) — a gathering for industry professionals in the business of theatrical film exhibition to check out new theater technology and exchange strategies for dealing with an ever-changing market. But it’s also, increasingly, a venue for Hollywood studios to give theater owners a preview of the product competing for their screens over the coming year. As such screenings at CinemaCon have become a recurring bellweather for which films are expected to make a significant box-office impact. A CinemaCon screening is less about driving buzz among fans or generating positive reviews from critics than it is about assuring theater owners that the film in question is going to make them a lot of money.
As such, it makes sense for Disney to show off Civil War, which is easily the studio’s highest-profile release likely to have been completed in time to show. Still, the move can be read as a vote of studio confidence in the film, which is expected to be one of the year’s biggest hits, but whose prospects have been called into question given that it’s opening not long after Batman V Superman; a film in the same genre featuring a similar premise of traditionally friendly hero characters taking sides against each other amid an argument over the collateral damage caused by their exploits. An early screening in front of an audience with a heavy financial stake in not being swayed in their reaction by the fan-service shoutouts the Marvel features are famous for speaks to the studio believing they’ve produced a legitimate four-quadrant hit as opposed to a fans-only event movie.
The industry pros viewing the film, on the other hand, will be more concerned as to what the early look will tell them about how to book the film. A positive reception could lead owners of many national chains to grant a greater number of screens up front to Captain America: Civil War’s opening weekend, which remains a key component of a film’s box-office impact: No matter how many people want to see a film, its potential earnings remain capped by the total number of seats available. If the CinemaCon crowd receives the film positively, it could lead to the Disney/Marvel blockbuster being booked for longer runs in bigger auditoriums — potentially impacting the box office of other films trying to open in the same timeframe.
One place a CinemaCon debut won’t automatically helpful to the film, however, will be with critics. While the last decade has seen film critics and blockbuster fans largely united more often than not, with franchises like the Fast & Furious series and the Marvel productions typically garnering positive notices along with huge box-office hauls, while fan-rejected projects like Fantastic Four earn accompanying bad reviews, the divided reaction to Batman V Superman has indicated that this state of agreement may have reached its endpoint. In that respect, Civil War itself could well prove a litmus test for whether the critical press has lost it’s taste for superhero epics on the whole or if the response to Batman V Superman was due entirely to the film’s (perceived) shortcomings.
Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd and Frank Grillo, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.
Anthony & Joe Russo are directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War opens in U.S. theaters on May 6, 2016.
Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018;Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans– July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.