Is 'Deadpool' outperforming previous superhero films?

'Deadpool' came in at No. 1 at the box office again this past weekend, beating new releases like 'Risen,' 'The Witch,' and 'Race.' 'Deadpool' is experiencing big success, but is it outperforming past superhero movies? 

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

The sardonic superhero 'Deadpool' became the box office champion again this past weekend, coming in first place over new films like “Risen,” “Race,” and “The Witch.” 

The movie “Deadpool,” which opened on Feb. 12, grossed an additional $55 million domestically this past weekend, while the animated sequel “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which opened at the end of January, came in second place, earning more than $12 million. 

“Risen,” a drama about a Roman soldier (Joseph Fiennes) who experiences some of the events of the life of Jesus, did the best of the new movies, coming in third with an opening weekend gross of more than $11 million. The horror movie “The Witch” followed behind at fourth place, grossing more than $8 million. 

The historical drama “Race,” which centers on Olympic athlete Jesse Owens’ career, had a difficult time finding an audience, coming in at sixth place with a gross of more than $7 million. The comedy “How To Be Single,” which opened earlier this month, came in above it, placing at fifth with a domestic gross of more than $8 million. 

Industry watchers expected “Deadpool” to do well, but its runaway success comes as a surprise to many. 

But how does the box office gross so far of the story of Wade Wilson compare to the success of other superhero movies? 

At a current estimated domestic gross of more than $235 million, “Deadpool” is now the domestically highest-grossing superhero movie released by Twentieth Century Fox, beating such recent hits as the 2014 movie “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and the 2006 movie “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

“Deadpool” was released by Twentieth Century Fox, which produces movies about Marvel's “X-Men” characters. The character of Deadpool was previously seen onscreen, also played by actor Ryan Reynolds, in the movie 2009 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” 

How did “Deadpool” beat the other “X-Men” movies? David Crow of the website Den of Geek posits that rather than just trying to promote itself as "different," as various superhero movies do these days, “Deadpool” actually was different. 

“Unlike other studios that pretend their superhero movies are different genres… ‘Deadpool’ is actually unique as a perverse, odd contrast to the Bryan Singer ‘X-Men’ movies,” Crow writes. “While [‘X-Men: First Class’ director Matthew] Vaughn had a tonal departure that was less financially successful, Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller’s ‘Deadpool’ is a box office Cinderella story that mercilessly mocks the ‘X-Men’ movies and the superhero genre as a whole. And it works.”

Of course, there have been decades of superhero movies. While “Deadpool” is a hit, it is still below such superhero movie powerhouses as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Iron Man,” and “The Dark Knight.” (This ranking of course comes with the caveat that “Deadpool” is still only in its third week of release.)

What movie remains at the top in terms of domestic grosses?

That title is held by the 2012 “The Avengers.” The Marvel film that brought together such superheroes that were previously seen onscreen as Iron Man and Captain America, earned more than $623 million domestically. 

What contributed to the “Avengers” success – to the point that it has held off all competition for almost four years and beat previous big box office hits, such as Warner Bros.’ Batman film “The Dark Knight”?  And what lessons could, perhaps, future "Deadpool" movies learn from the success of "Avengers"?

Hollywood Reporter writer Borys Kit points to anticipation for 'The Avengers' as one reason. Audiences had been introduced to many of the characters beforehand and Marvel hoped that moviegoers would be excited to see all these people team up onscreen. Judging by the movie’s box office performance, they were.

“It has been marketed to audiences since ‘Iron Man’ first appeared at Comic-Con in 2007,” Kit wrote. “…Grouping several heroes in one movie also primed a wider swath of moviegoers to show up opening weekend. Not a fan of Chris Evans as Captain America? How about Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Chris Hemsworth as Thor?” 

Business Insider writers Jeff Gomez and Fabian Nicieza wrote that the relatively new idea of releasing “Avengers” elsewhere in the world before it debuted in the US also part of its success formula. 

“The unusual choice to release the movie in many major international markets before releasing it in the United States – a strategy that has also reduced piracy – built a ‘global countdown’ buzz for Avengers,” Gomez and Nicieza wrote. “Instead of getting American audiences angry, with each overseas record broken, and every positive review that came in from around the world, anticipation only increased for the film in the US.”

Overseas success has been a key part of the performance by "Deadpool" as well, with Deadline writer Nancy Tartaglione writing of this past weekend's box office, "'Deadpool' picked up $85.3M in 74 offshore markets on its way to a $500M global cume as early as [Feb. 22] in what has started off as a stellar run."

In addition, "Avengers" had something "Deadpool" doesn't: A PG-13 rating. With the R rating for "Deadpool," the film is a success, but the rating is most likely keeping out superhero fans who aren't old enough to see the movie yet. 

"The most reliable predictor of box-office success these days may not be a marquee name or a masked superhero," Los Angeles Times writers John Horn, Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik wrote at the time of the release of "Avengers." "It's the PG-13 rating." They cited "Avengers" as a prime example of this.

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