April 22, 2019
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Captain Marvel rakes in $455 million in worldwide weekend haul

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Captain Marvel, the latest superhero film from Disney’s Marvel franchise, is bringing home the bacon — to the tune of a $455 million box office total for the weekend.

The movie, Marvel’s first to be headlined exclusively by a female superhero, is off to the second largest global opening of any superhero movie behind Avengers: Infinity War and the sixth best global box officer premiere of all time.

The film’s success shows (again) that when under-represented demographics get their due in solid entertainment outings, audiences will respond by opening their wallets and shelling out the cash.

Marvel’s highest grossing movie to date for the U.S. box office is Black Panther, which raked in a whopping $700 million in movie theaters across North America.

Captain Marvel’s soaring numbers come despite mixed reviews from critics (like our own Anthony Ha) who called it “a fine but underwhelming debut for Brie Larson’s superhero.”

With the new release Marvel seems to also be consistently reducing the gender gap among audiences for superhero movies. Captain Marvel ranks alongside Black Panther and Ant-Man and the Wasp for having the smallest gender divide among audiences for films in the Marvel Comics Universe franchise, with a weekend crowd that was 55% male and 45% female, as Box Office Mojo reports.

The results also could mean good things for the Disney+ streaming service, which is counting on the Marvel and LucasFilm franchises to power subscriptions (take my money already).

Plans are in the works for a series starring Tom Hiddleston as Loki (the complicated villain/anti-hero from the Thor and Avengers movies) and Marvel executives have teased that characters from the now-defunct Netflix/Marvel deal for characters based on The Defenders team (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist — and tangentially The Punisher) may appear in some form in the Marvel Cinematic Universe down the road.

Captain Marvel, meanwhile is set to become the first movie to stream exclusively on the Disney+ service.

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Hulu greenlights ‘Howard the Duck’ and three other animated Marvel shows

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Four new animated Marvel series, plus a crossover special, are coming to Hulu.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hulu has greenlit “MODOK,” “Hit-Monkey,” “Tigra & Dazzler Show” and “Howard the Duck.” The characters will then come together in a special titled “The Offenders.”

These aren’t exactly A-list, or even B-list, Marvel characters. Howard the Duck (created by Steve Gerber) is probably the best-known — mostly for starring in a notorious ’80s flop — but I’ve also got a soft spot for MODOK, a gloriously ridiculous villain whose full name is Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.

Presumably, the strategy here is to make funny shows about some of the weirder Marvel characters. And there are some established names working behind the scenes, with Kevin Smith signed up as a writer and executive producer on “Howard the Duck,” Patton Oswalt serving in a similar role on “MODOK” and Chelsea Handler on “Tigra and Dazzler Show.”

Meanwhile, the Netflix-Marvel partnership — which also started out with four superhero series and a big crossover — appears to be coming to an end, with only “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher” left uncanceled (for now).

Hulu is already the home of another Marvel series, “Runaways,” and it makes sense that the relationship would deepen after the Fox acquisition, which made Marvel’s corporate parent Disney into the majority owner of Hulu. And if that’s not enough streaming superhero content for you, there are also shows about Loki and other characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the works for the yet-to-launch Disney+.

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Disney+ streaming service will feature non-Disney content at launch

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Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service and Netflix competitor, known as Disney+, will include non-Disney programming at launch, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in a call with investors following Disney’s earnings on Tuesday. The company had already licensed a CBS show for its service, which led to questions about Disney’s content strategy for the new service. Iger said that while Disney’s long-term strategy will focus on the company’s own internally-sourced programming, it plans to launch this year with shows licensed from outside of Disney.

Last month, Disney had ordered the 10-episode series, “Diary of a Female President” from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer Ilana Peña, Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), and CBS TV Studios.

But it was unclear if a buy like this was something of a one-off for Disney, or if the company planned to strategically shop for more programming from outside of its walls to fill out Disney+.

The service, we already knew, will feature content from all of Disney’s big-name brands, including Marvel, LucasFilm/Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic, and Disney Studios itself. And we knew, too, the service will focus on family-friendly fare, while snaring the exclusive streaming rights to things like the Star Wars and Marvel movies.

On Tuesday, Disney announced that “Captain Marvel” would be the first of its movies to stream exclusively on Disney+.

Disney will also produce original shows and movies for the service, including a “High School Musical” show, an animated “Monsters Inc.” series, a Marvel live-action title, and a “Star Wars” title, “The Mandalorian,” among other things.

What was less clear was whether Disney-owned content would be all there is to watch on Disney+ – at least until Disney’s Fox deal goes through, that is. The company said it plans to leverage some of its new Fox assets and output further down the road to round out Disney+’s offerings.

In the foreseeable future, however, Disney confirmed will strategically buy shows from other studios, and will continue to do so in the future

According to Iger, the long-term strategy is “pretty heavily weighted to internally sourced versus externally sourced.” But he added that there would be times when Disney would be “glad to license from third parties.”

One of those times, apparently, is launch.

“Because we need to launch the service with some volume – and it takes time to ramp up – we’re buying certain products from the outside opportunistically, and we’ll continue to do that,” said Iger. He added that this is something Disney has done for some time, in other areas of its business. For example, its theme parks licensed IP from George Lucas, as well as the Indiana Jones IP, and the Avatar IP.

“We’ll continue to look at opportunities that we think we can leverage because there is a potential consumer demand for it,” Iger said.

Streaming was a big part of Disney’s conversation with investors on Tuesday, as the public debut of Disney+ nears. Investors will get a first look at the new service on April 11, but the pricing and an exact release date aren’t yet known.

Disney also updated investors on its other streaming efforts, including ESPN+ milestone of 2+ million subscribers, and the company’s plans to use the same underlying technology platform, BAMTech, to power Disney+. The company touched on its plans for Hulu, too, again reiterating its desire to take the service international and to offer bundles that combined Hulu and ESPN+ or Disney+ in one package deal.

Iger spoke also of FX’s plans to output content to Hulu instead of Disney+, as FX doesn’t fit the latter’s family-friendly nature.

The shift to streaming is not coming without an initial hit to Disney’s business, though. The company noted it expected to lose $150 million from stopping its licensing deals with Netflix this year, as it expected. Disney believes that it will eventually make up for the loss as consumers sign up for Disney+.

Disney reported flat growth of $15.3 billion in revenue in its fiscal Q1 2019 and adjusted earnings per share of $1.84, topping analyst estimates. It warned that its investments in streaming, including both ESPN+ and Disney+, would negatively impact the segment’s year-over-year operating income by $200 million in Q2.


Image credits: Disney


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The comic inspired by the podcast inspired by the comic

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It’s 2018, and pop culture is one giant ouroboros. Exhibit A: Wolverine: The Long Night, the new comic miniseries inspired by the podcast that was inspired by the comics. Is this a first? Maybe? Who can say? Who really cares anymore? Comics are pop culture now, and the nerds have definitively won the war, and here, enjoy this book.

Announced today at New York Comic-Con, the Benjamin Percy-written, Marcio Takara-drawn, Rafael Albuquerque-covered five-issue miniseries is based on what has, by all accounts, been a successful first-scripted podcast for Marvel.

Here’s a synopsis of the new comic, which is also basically a synopsis of the podcast: “Following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye…”

Spoilers: A diminutive, angry Canadian gentlemen with retractable metal claws crosses their paths. The book is due out in January.

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LittleBits enlists the Avengers for its latest kit

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Being a part of the Disney Accelerator is the gift that keeps on giving, apparently. After introducing R2-D2-hacking Droid Inventor Kit last year, LittleBits is back with a new kit featuring The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Iron Man is the real star of this one, with kids building a wearable “gauntlet” featuring an LED matrix panel based on Tony Stark’s palm Repulsor Beam. The arm features wearable sensors (including a new accelerometer), Avengers sound effects and nine bits in total.

The connected app offers step by step video instructions, led by various familiar Avengers members (with a 50/50 gender split to make the experience more inclusive), including the Hulk, Black Panther, Ant Man and the Wasp. Kids are encouraged to customize the gauntlets from there, and once done, they can proudly display it on the included Iron Man stand.

“From creating circuits to introducing superpowers like stealth mode, rainbow control, power boost, and more, the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit teaches kids about STEAM in a fun, accessible way,” CEO Ayah Bdeir said in a release tied to the news. “We’re thrilled to extend our relationship with Disney to now work with the amazing team at Marvel to give kids the skills — and the confidence — to change the world.”

The partnership’s a no brainer for both companies. The Avengers are about as hot as movie properties get, and LittleBits some of the best STEM toys on the market. Famous technology skeptic John Biggs called the Droid Inventor Kit “the first STEM toy that works.” High praise, indeed.

The new kit starts shipping August 4th, priced at $150 — which puts it $50 above the Star Wars kit.

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