Captain Marvel exceeded expectations at the box office, but why did that happen? After a record-shattering 2018 bolstered by the blockbuster successes of Black Pantherand Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios looked to get 2019 off to a great start with Captain Marvel. Starring Brie Larson in the title role, the film played an important role in the larger MCU by introducing viewers to Carol Danvers. Not only will Carol play a key part in Avengers: Endgame, she’ll likely be an integral figure in the franchise moving forward, establishing a new core of main heroes along with Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange.
These days, Marvel movies are pretty safe bets, but there was still a lot riding on Captain Marvel. Fortunately for all involved, it proved to be another hit for the studio. Fueled by enthusiastic buzz and positive reviews, the film cruised to the top of the box office during its opening weekend and significantly topped the initial projections. Going into its premiere, Captain Marvel was pegged to gross $350 million globally, but ended up scoring a whopping $455 million debut. That’s the sixth-highest worldwide opening of all-time, and there are a few reasons why that happened.
For starters, Captain Marvel came out at the perfect time. This winter was one of the slowest at the box office in recent memory, including the worst Super Bowl weekend in nearly 20 years. Several of the titles that opened in January and February failed to leave much of an impression, even those that were well-received. A Marvel movie is always going to do strong commercially, but Captain Marvel got an additional boost due to lack of any meaningful competition. The weeks leading up to its release were pretty dry and there was an obvious hunger for a fresh tentpole. By all accounts, Captain Marvel was the biggest film to hit the scene since Aquaman in December, so people were ready for another fun genre picture. Marvel’s latest filled a huge void.
Captain Marvel also made this much because it bucked traditional MCU release practices. Usually, Marvel movies come out early in overseas territories before rolling out in America a week later, but Captain Marvel essentially opened all around the world (including China) during the same weekend. As of this writing, its only remaining premieres are in Japan and Nigeria. Captain Marvel was able to net the second-biggest worldwide debut for a comic book adaptation, behind only Infinity War. There are surely other MCU films that would have been able to approach $450 million if they followed a similar release pattern. This isn’t to take anything away from Captain Marvel’s accomplishment, but it’s still an important distinction to make when discussing its performance.
It’s also no secret Captain Marvel wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill MCU installment and was the subject of several narratives leading up to its premiere. The film took on an enhanced sense of importance because it was the first MCU entry to be led solo by a female superhero (Wasp got co-billing in Ant-Man and the Wasp) – an element Marvel played up during the marketing campaign. It also made several headlines due to review bombing, where trolls attempted to sabotage its audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This obviously didn’t play the biggest role in its box office turnout, but there were probably at least some curious to see if Captain Marvel was deserving of the controversy it generated. To top it all off, this is the last Marvel movie released before Endgame, providing some necessary puzzle pieces for the Phase 3 finale. With all these factors in mind, it’s no surprise Captain Marvel was able to thrive and exceed expectations, and it’ll be interesting to see how high it will go.