Marvel Films Make 47% More at Box Office Than DC Comics

When it comes to box-office dollars, the Avengers and other Marvel superheroes are mightier than DC Comics.

Films based on Marvel comic books have generated 47 percent more in domestic box-office sales on average than DC Comics movies, according to data compiled by Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries. The 28 Marvel films dating back to 1998 have averaged $190 million, compared with $129 million for 23 DC Comics movies starting with “Superman” in 1978.

“The Avengers,” the 2012 movie featuring Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, was the highest-grossing film for either comic-book brand, with $1.5 billion in global receipts. The success of Marvel movies has given a boost to Walt Disney Co., which acquired Marvel Entertainment Inc. at the end of 2009 for about $4 billion. Time Warner Inc., meanwhile, has hitched its fortunes to DC Comics fare, including the Batman films and this week’s “Man of Steel” release.

“Time Warner is clearly relying on DC Comics to replace (if even possible) the Harry Potter franchise,” Sweeney, who relied on data from Box Office Mojo and SNL Kagan, said in an e-mail. The Harry Potter films, based on the J.K. Rowling books, ended their run in 2011.

Nolan’s Touch

For Time Warner, which acquired DC Comics when Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications in 1990, “The Dark Knight Rises” was its biggest comic-book blockbuster. The 2012 film -- the third installment in a series directed by Christopher Nolan -- has generated about $1.1 billion in global receipts, according to Box Office Mojo.

Warner has attempted to give “Man of Steel” a similar look and tone to the “Dark Knight” films by hiring Nolan to produce the film. Nolan, the writer and director behind “Inception,” also created the storyline used as the basis for the Superman script.

The movie, starring British actor Henry Cavill as the world’s most famous Kryptonian, is expected to open in the U.S. and Canada with sales of $115 million and take in $357 million in the region during its theatrical run, the film-industry website projects. It cost about $225 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo.

Box-office inflation has helped Marvel outshine DC Comics because more of its movies were released in recent years. Marvel has debuted 13 films since 2007, while DC has only delivered seven, Sweeney said in his report.

Average ticket prices have tripled since 1980, giving more recent films Hulk-sized dollar figures. The total domestic grosses for Marvel are $5.3 billion, compared with about $3 billion for DC, according to Sweeney.

In 2009, Time Warner placed DC Comics under its film division, highlighting its growing reliance on using the iconic characters to generate hits. In addition to Superman and Batman, DC superheroes include Aquaman, the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman.

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