Following an extremely poor opening for The Lone Ranger, many moviegoers expected Disney would be licking its wounds this week - as the $200+ million film only brought-in $29 million over its debut weekend. An unenthusiastic response from critics (read our Lone Ranger review), lukewarm audience word-of-mouth, and a strong debut from Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me 2, will make it hard for Gore Verbinski's retelling of the masked western hero to earn back its $200+ million budget - even with an A-lister like Johnny Depp headlining the credits.
As a result, industry analysts have claimed the film could lead to anywhere between a $100 million to $190 million writedown for Disney - just shy of their $200 million write-off for John Carter in 2011. Yet, Disney stocks actually rose 1.2% over the last 24 hours because, in spite of an especially disappointing performance for The Lone Ranger, the mouse house still has plenty of bankable properties in the pipeline - most notably Star Wars and Marvel Studios films.
In fact, according to an article over at Variety, Credit Suisse Group analyst Michael Senno is already going on record to say that Disney will make "around $733 million in profits" from Star Wars: Episode 7. According to Senno, that $733 million in profit will be a combination of "consumer products and other revenue" along with roughly "$1.2 billion in global theatrical receipts." To put that in perspective, months before J.J. Abrams is scheduled to start shooting Star Wars: Episode 7 and two full years ahead of its summer 2015 release date, Senno is claiming the film will generate the same box office haul as Iron Man 3 - the fifth highest grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation). Yet, $1.2 billion is not an enormous stretch - since Star Wars: Episode 1 managed to secure just under $1 billion global ticket sales (unadjusted for inflation) back in 1999.
Senno asserts that, despite poor returns for The Lone Ranger: “The 'Star Wars' franchise should drive strong profit growth and mitigate risk at the studio with fewer risky high budget films." If Senno is right, instead of attempting to develop their own blockbuster franchises (i.e. The Lone Ranger and John Carter), expect Disney to rely on cash-driving acquisitions like Pixar Animation, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios to keep profits (and stock prices) up.
It's not a bad strategy either, as regular Screen Rant readers are well-aware, Marvel Studios films have been consistently strong performers - most recently with The Avengers ($1.5 billion) and, as stated, Iron Man 3 ($1.2 billion). Even modest performers, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor both scored $368 million and $449 million respectively at the global box office - far exceeding their individual budgets. Of course, none of those totals include the high-profile merchandising opportunities (i.e. consumer products and other revenue) that, without question, added plenty of additional money to each film's overall profits.
Not to mention, now that The Avengers has given audiences the impression that each Marvel Studios film is a must-see entry in the lead-up to The Avengers 2, it's likely that both Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier will enjoy major box office bumps (compared to their "origin" entries) - ahead of another extremely profitable Avengers team-up in 2015.
Still, not every Marvel movie is a guaranteed ticket selling smash: Edgar Wright's Ant-Man could end up being a major gamble for Disney in November 2015. Plus, as the first entirely new Marvel Phase 2 entry, Guardians of the Galaxy might also be the lowest performing (or not). Regardless, it's still unlikely that either film will cause Lone Ranger-sized losses for Disney - given the strength of the Marvel brand among high-value demographics: especially kids and casual moviegoers. Keep in mind, while many die-hard comic fans were split on the overall quality of Iron Man 3 (thanks to some controversial choices by director Shane Black), the film was well-received among most audiences and exceeded box office expectations.
For that reason, while die-hard fans of Marvel and Star Wars have cause to keep vigilant movie to movie, analysts appear confident that Disney has put together a strong enough stable of highly-profitable film (and merchandise) IP's to weather a few expensive box office bombs.
Star Wars: Episode 7 is set for release in 2015.
Iron Man 3 is currently in theaters, Thor: The Dark World arrives on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015, and Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Star Wars and Marvel Studios as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.