Could The Marvel Cinematic Universe Become An $18 Billion Franchise?

Could the Marvel Cinematic Universe Become an $18 Billion Franchise?

Yesterday, Marvel gave the world a full timeline for Phase 3 of their film franchise, which will culminate in a two-part Avengers event called Infinity Warthat wraps in 2019.

The franchise, which got its start with Iron Man in 2008, has now launched nine international blockbusters that have combined to earn $6.9 billion at the worldwide box office. The weakest film in the franchise, the first Captain America, grossed $370 million worldwide. The Avengers, Marvel's highest-grossing film to date, was a $1.5 billion mega-blockbuster that currently sits in third place on the all-time global rankings. In between those two films are five films on the top 100 highest-grossing list, one that just misses out on the top 100, and Thor, which grossed $450 million worldwide.

Nothing Marvel has released since The Avengers in 2012 has grossed less than $645 million worldwide, and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron has been greeted with the sort of ecstatic freakout that all but guarantees a $1 billion-plus bow.

Yesterday's event adds another nine titles to a Marvel Cinematic Universe that's already grossed almost $7 billion ($6.875 billion, not counting The Incredible Hulk), not including the two films not on the timeline that are slated for a 2015 release. All told, these nine films could easily push the MCU's total take past $15 billion, which would make the $4 billion Disney (DIS) paid to buy Marvel five years ago look like an absolute steal. Let's take a look at Marvel's slate of upcoming films to see why $15 billion is easily within reach:

Avengers: Age of Ultron -- May 1, 2015

You've probably already seen the trailer for Age of Ultron -- it's been viewed almost 50 million times in the past week -- but if you haven't, here it is:

Just about everything in this trailer looks more exciting than the first Avengers. Evil killer super-robots! An army of killer super-robots! Hulk vs. Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor! New superheroes! Cap's shield gets broken! You get the picture. A lot of people, myself included, will be very surprised if this moviedoesn't break Avengers' $1.5 billion mark worldwide. A $1.5 billion global gross seems like a conservative estimate, but let's go with that here.

Estimated gross: $1.5 billion. MCU lifetime gross to date: $8.375 billion.

Ant-Man -- July 17, 2015

Although casting the talented and charismatic Paul Rudd in the title role seems like a great choice for one of the more offbeat and lesser-known Marvel properties, it may not be able to escape Age of Ultron's long shadow. Ant-Man isn't exactly a well-known superhero, but optimists will point out that Guardians of the Galaxy has already passed a $750 million worldwide gross despite the fact that the biggest name in its credits, the similarly talented and charismatic Bradley Cooper, was essentially playing back-up as the voice of an angry space raccoon. This one is probably going to be one of Marvel's weakest launches from here on out, but it'll probably veer closer to Thor 1's $450 million than Cap 1's $370 million.

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