Come On, Marvel: Why Was Age of Ultron Released Late in the US?

Avengers: Age of Ultron launched already in many countries across the globe, except for the United States and a few other places. We won’t get to see it until midnight on May 1, at the earliest. That’s if you’re lucky enough to get into a midnight showing. There’s no doubt theaters are going to be packed this weekend so you might even have trouble getting in to see the movie in the days following too.

Many of us are looking on in anticipation and longing, as our fellow Earthlings get to watch Age of Ultron days before we do. It sucks, but there’s not much you can do.

It does beg the question: why are so many major blockbusters – Avengers included — premiering abroad first?

Sadly, it has everything to do with money.

Why are Blockbusters Being Released Abroad First?

Scarlet Qitch from Avengers Age of Ultron

Dave Karger, chief correspondent for Fandango.com, says that it’s all about the benjamins.

“We’ve reached the point now where a blockbuster film can make as much as 80 percent of its overall box office gross outside of the United States,” says Karger. “So it makes sense that the studios are catering to the overseas markets by releasing many of their biggest tent-pole movies internationally first and even adding special footage in the most important markets.”

In other words, releasing movies abroad before the US encourages international moviegoers to attend the [technically-not] early screenings. That in turn makes the related studios a heap-load of moolah, and in this particular case that happens to be Marvel.

Let’s not overlook the fact that all of us in the States are jealous. Okay, maybe we’re not all “jealous,” but a lot of folks really want to see the movie.

By releasing the film early elsewhere it builds up a lot of hype and anticipation – especially if the reviews are positive. By the time Age of Ultron hits theaters this weekend everyone will be gnawing at the bit to get a seat.

Why Don’t Indie Films Use This Strategy?

hawkeye and joss whedon filming-avengers-age-of-ultron

Paul Dergarbedian, a box office analyst for Hollywood.com, had this to say about major blockbusters following the same release pattern:

“First and most importantly it builds excitement in the countries where the film is not yet playing. In other words, news of blockbuster returns overseas only serve to raise awareness and excitement in North America and as such I believe lead to bigger returns once the film lands stateside. ‘The Avengers’ last year and ‘Iron Man 3’ are two great examples of films that opened to bigger-than-expected results in North America due to the fervor and pent up demand for these film by American audiences.”

Why doesn’t this happen with indie films, though? Dergarabedian explains it’s all about the budget.

“We’re only seeing this happen with the huge blockbuster films because smaller, more character-driven movies don’t have the same international appeal as action films or animated movies. Large blockbusters (particularly action and sci-fi) play well overseas and have a built in fan-base that is rabidly enthusiastic for this type of entertainment,” says Dergarbedian. “Small U.S. made character driven films would have a tougher time justifying the marketing costs for an international launch.”

The strategy is a win-win for studios when it comes to blockbusters, and Age of Ultron is definitely no exception to that rule.

Of course, there’s also the matter of piracy.

How Does Piracy Factor In?

age of ultron trailer 3 screencap 8

There’s also the matter of pirates, who often illegally obtain a film because they have no direct means to purchase or access it otherwise. Yes, there are unscrupulous parties who pirate just to get a free movie, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Overseas, it can be difficult for interested fans to get their hands on a copy of the film, even if they have their money in hand and are perfectly willing to pay the price.

As Dergarbedian says, “The piracy issues are alleviated by making the film available internationally first and circumventing the pirates and their potential for profits since they are not in possession of a commodity that is not otherwise available to the audience.”

I’d like to be perfectly clear, I’m not condoning piracy. I’m merely commenting on one form of it and how studios like Marvel might be using an early release schedule to combat it.

Does Marvel Need Money That Badly?

Ultron from Age of Ultron

It’s not that they need money. A studio like Marvel can certainly handle a few flops. It’s just good business sense to go for the release schedule that will make the most money.

When it comes to Age of Ultron, Marvel has used a similar schedule in the past and it’s worked out well. As the age old saying goes, if it’s not broken don’t fix it.

Looking at it in a more positive light, Age of Ultron is only three days away here in the States – two if you’re going to a midnight release. It’s not really that bad that it launched early in other countries.

The good news is that if the movie is a huge disappointment, we’ll know beforehand. Although, I seriously doubt that’s going to happen.

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