'Deadpool': How did it achieve a record-breaking box office weekend?

Many in the industry expected the new superhero movie 'Deadpool' to do well, but the box office success of the film, which has set multiple records, has surprised Hollywood. How did 'Deadpool' become a box-office smash?

Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox/AP
'Deadpool' stars Ryan Reynolds.

The new superhero movie “Deadpool” became a smash hit over Valentine’s Day weekend, setting multiple records at the box office.

The film, which centers on sarcastic superhero Wade Wilson, also known as Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), opened on Feb. 12. 

Among other records, it now holds the record for best weekend debut ever for an R-rated movie, the best February opening weekend ever, and the best weekend debut for a movie released by “Deadpool” studio Twentieth Century Fox.

The movie earned $135 million between Friday and Sunday. 

The animated film “Kung Fu Panda 3” placed second at the domestic box office, grossing more than $19 million domestically, while the comedy “How to Be Single” opened in third place, grossing more than $18 million. 

Another comedy, “Zoolander 2,” did not perform well, with the film opening in fourth place and grossing more than $15 million domestically.

As for the records now held by “Deadpool,” the previous R-rated movie with the biggest opening weekend was the sequel “The Matrix Reloaded.” 

Industry analysts were expecting “Deadpool” to succeed, but the box office performance of the superhero movie has surprised many.

How did the movie do so well? 

One aspect that most likely led to the movie’s success was the promotion for the film and how it drew attention to the fact that Deadpool is very different from the comic book heroes most audience members are used to. The foul-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking hero is a far cry from Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne. 

New York Times writer Brooks Barnes noted this, writing that “multiplex audiences apparently hunger[ed] for the originality promised by Fox’s unusual advertising campaign.” 

Smart scheduling may have also played a part. The first few months of the year are traditionally a quiet time at the box office (though that’s been changing over the last several years and has never been more emphasized than by the arrival of “Deadpool” and March’s “Batman v Superman”) and the superhero movie “Deadpool” was very different from its competition. The other movies opening last weekend were the comedies “How to Be Single” and “Zoolander 2.” “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which opened Feb. 5, could have snagged some of its action-loving audience, but “Pride” had already been around a week and superheroes may have appealed more to some moviegoers than a zombie tale set in the world of Elizabeth Bennet, which is a more unusual proposition.

Someone else is also offering his opinion on what made “Deadpool” work: “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn. Gunn’s film “Guardians” became a huge box office hit when it opened in 2014 and the film also poked fun at superhero movie conventions.

“'Deadpool' was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s… good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks,” Gunn told Deadline. “… Hopefully in the midst of all this there will be a studio or two that will take the right lesson from this – like Fox did with 'Guardians' by green-lighting ‘Deadpool’ – and say – ‘Boy, maybe we can give them something they don’t already have.’”

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