The summer of 2014 was one of the worst in years in terms of box office receipts, but one of the few standouts was James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. An adaptation of an obscure Marvel comic book (even for those who frequently read comics), it was pegged by us as one of the biggest commercial risks going into the year, but thanks to a mixture of zany humor, heart, and space opera genre thrills, Guardians managed to exceed even the rosiest expectations and become the talk of the town during its run.
A growing list of accolades already includes the highest-grossing film domestically, becoming Marvel Studios' most successful movie to not feature Tony Stark, and an impressive $700 million haul. Now, that list includes another amazing feat - Guardians of the Galaxy is now the company's third most successful film at the worldwide box office, behind only The Avengers and Iron Man 3.
The news comes on the heels of the sci-fi flick posting huge numbers during its second weekend in China. At the time of this writing, Guardians has grossed $69 million in that territory, which pushed its global total to $733 million. That's a significant increase from the $714 million Captain America: The Winter Soldier put up (though both definitely broke the bank) and is a sign that Marvel was very smart to announce Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.
Due to its association with the Marvel brand (which has become one of the most lucrative in the industry), it was never expected that Guardians would be a complete bomb. Heading into its U.S. opening weekend in August, early tracking indicated a $73 million debut, but nobody could have predicted it to puncture the zeitgeist in the way it did. Making $94.3 million (an August record) during those first three days, Guardians took advantage of the lack of competition and managed to finish on top of the charts even when it had been playing for over a month.
The fact that Guardians has become such a big hit should have a profound effect not just on Marvel Studios, but the superhero genre as a whole. Not only do these developments free up Disney to confidently expand their cinematic universe by introducing Doctor Strange and (possibly) The Inhumans, rival studios have taken notice and are beginning to develop their own third-tier (to casual moviegoers) properties. Case in point: Warner Bros. recruiting several A-list actors to appear in David Ayer's upcoming Suicide Squad movie.
Another interesting facet to Marvel's huge year is that both Winter Soldier and Guardians were released during atypical months for major Hollywood tentpoles (April and August, respectively). What this means is that studios don't have to be so limited when staking out release dates for their future films, since the people have shown that they will support a good movie no matter when it comes out.
Again, we've seen this happen recently with WB. One look at their DC slate and you can see that their blockbusters will be appearing in March, April, and (not so coincidentally) August.
We may very well look back at Guardians of the Galaxy as one of the landmark moments of the comic book movie genre. Its massive box office haul obviously has influenced other studios to take a good look at the deep cuts in their libraries, and its long-term reign at number one has encouraged the spacing out of these big projects, allowing for more and more (potentially) viable superhero films over the next handful of years. When the Guardians poster was released, it included the cute tagline "You're Welcome." Now we know what we were thanking them for.
Guardians of the Galaxy will be available on Blu-ray on December 9, 2014.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.