Which Superhero Will Reign at the Box Office?

The battle lines are being drawn, and Marvel Studios, Warner Bros., and Sony Pictures are all counting on their superhero movie to be the mega-hit of 2012. We're still about a month and a half away from the start of the "cape movie" onslaught (starting with Marvel's The Avengers on May 4, USA), but it's not too early for some speculation on which flick is going to rule the box office this summer. 

Of course, we judge movies on their overall quality and how well the story is told - so when we say "the biggest" or "most popular", we're not in any way saying that one will be "better" than the others. As we all know, ticket sales and high quality don't always go hand in hand.  Having said that, let's have a little fun guessing which one of these movies audiences will flock to in the next few months. If ever there was a "Year of the Superhero", 2012 is definitely it - with The Avengers,  Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, USA) and Warner's The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, USA) all vying for the public's movie-going dollars. Which one of these flicks do you think will be crowned the most popular superhero movie of the year?

Marvel Studios
We started thinking about this topic after reading an article on USAToday.comin which a couple of experts give their opinions on which movie will rack up the most ticket sales. The article also points out that 2011 was a down year for the major studios, with many big budget movies such as Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger doing okay, but not great in terms of attendance. So, the studios are counting on these three A-list characters to help make 2012 a banner year.

Here's our prediction on how the Big Three will do at the USA box office  -

Seldom has a movie garnered as much fan interest as The Avengers and it will come very close to breaking The Dark Knight's record for superhero movie opening weeks. By every indication up to this point in time, there's no reason to believe that The Avengers will be anything but a huge success. It will make around $150 million in the first seven days, which would put it in second place behind The Dark Knight in terms of all-time first week ticket sales. By the time The Amazing Spider-Man opens on July 3, it will already top the $300 million mark. Based on how previous Marvel movies performed and the fact that this one features four iconic heroes, $450 to $500 million is a reasonable guess as to how much it will make overall. One final prediction - before the second weekend, Marvel will announce the opening date of The Avengers 2 (probably sometime in the summer of 2015).

Sony Pictures
The Amazing Spider-Man faces an uphill battle at the box office for several reasons. First, it's following The Avengers, and that film is going to set an incredibly high bar in terms of action and compelling characters. "Amazing's" two young stars, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, have a huge fan base, and there is a lot of curiosity about this new Spidey, but that won't be enough to give it "Avengers-like" numbers. Unless the story and visual effects are absolutely, well...amazing, it's bound to pale in comparison to Marvel's team of A-list heroes.  Even though we think it might turn out to be an improvement over the original Spider-Man film from 2002, the public might view it as a re-tread and skip it. If this were any other year, The Amazing Spider-Man would be the biggest superhero movie, but with this competition, it's bound to finish third in the box office tally.

Warner Bros.
When everything is said and done, The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) will be crowned the most popular and highest-earning superhero movie of all time. It will break the opening week record set by The Dark Knight in 2008 ($158 million) and will go on to earn around $550 million in total. This prediction is completely reasonable based on three key factors - 1) The public interest in this movie has been growing wildly for a full year, and it's only getting more intense as the opening day draws near. This public fascination with TDKR is due largely to director, Christopher Nolan, who has masterfully set up TDKR as the final chapter in his Batman story that he began with 2005's Batman Begins. 2) There's even speculation that Nolan might have Bruce Wayne/Batman die, which has kept the internet rumor mill (and fan interest) running at a fever pitch like few films ever have. By the time this movie opens on July 20, no one will want to be the person in their circle of friends who doesn't know how the story ends. 3) It's Batman. The Dark Knight is one of only a few superheroes who is universally known, even by non-comic book fans, and there's something about his story that almost everyone finds fascinating. Combine Batman's popularity with Nolan's intelligent, thought-provoking storytelling, add jaw-dropping visual effects, and there's really no way The Dark Knight Rises can't set a new box office record for superhero movies.

So, now that you know our predictions for The "Year of the Superhero", what are yours? Do you think Batman will reign as king of the box office or is there any chance that Christopher Nolan and company could stumble in this final chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy?