'Avengers: Endgame' Is The Latest Mega-Blockbuster Reshaping The Multiplex Critic Bob Mondello reviews the history of movie blockbusters and tracks how Disney's ownership of mega-blockbusting franchises is reshaping the multiplex.
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'Endgame' Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of Disney Mega-Blockbusters Is Upon Us

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'Endgame' Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of Disney Mega-Blockbusters Is Upon Us

'Endgame' Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of Disney Mega-Blockbusters Is Upon Us

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's taken Marvel's "Avengers" 63 days to make $2,750,000,000. Don't do the math. It's a lot. The Disney movie "Avengers: Endgame" is now just a hair shy of toppling "Avatar" for the top spot in Hollywood's record books. Critic Bob Mondello calls this a triumph not just of moviemaking but of strategizing. And he says it's changing the film industry.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Normally in Hollywood, there are winners and losers. When "Avatar" became the worldwide box office champ in 2009, it pushed "Titanic" down to second place.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVATAR")

STEPHEN LANG: (As Colonel Miles Quaritch) You're on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen. Respect that fact every second of every day.

MONDELLO: Now, James Cameron may have been happy about this having directed both films, but 20th Century Fox now had bragging rights for "Avatar." And after 12 years at No. 1...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TITANIC")

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Jack Dawson) I'm the king of the world.

MONDELLO: ...Paramount Pictures was abruptly an also-ran with "Titanic." Fox, let's note, was back on top for the first time in four decades having last worn the crown in 1977 with "Star Wars"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE")

ALEC GUINNESS: (As Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi) Use the Force, Luke.

MONDELLO: ...Four decades in the wilderness watching "E.T." and then "Jurassic Park" and then "Titanic" sail past the "Star Wars" worldwide record.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE")

ANTHONY DANIELS: (As C-3PO) We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life.

MONDELLO: Now, you'd think the threat that Disney might swipe the crown away from them would prompt wails of anguish, but it's hard for the folks at Fox to be too upset because these days, Disney owns Fox, which means Disney doesn't just own the Marvel Universe and "Star Wars," which it bought a few years ago. It now also owns "Avatar," and that fact is about to change the way the rest of Hollywood is forced to do business.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE")

GUINNESS: (As Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi) I felt a great disturbance in the Force as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

MONDELLO: These days, there are blockbusters, and there are mega-blockbusters. Regular blockbusters prompt a wave of moviegoing that lifts all boats and makes everybody happy. "Aquaman," for instance, was a strong No. 1 when it opened.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AQUAMAN")

PATRICK WILSON: (As King Orm) The time has come for Atlantis to rise again.

MONDELLO: But there was room that weekend at the multiplex for "Mary Poppins Returns"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY POPPINS RETURNS")

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: (As Jack) Good thing you come along when you did, Mary Poppins.

MONDELLO: ...The Transformers movie "Bumblebee"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BUMBLEBEE")

MONDELLO: ...And "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE")

SHAMEIK MOORE: (As Miles Morales) How many more spider-people are there?

MONDELLO: ...All of which did excellent business while "Aquaman" was swimming to first place.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AQUAMAN")

JASON MOMOA: (As Aquaman) That was awesome.

MONDELLO: On the other hand, the arrival of a mega-blockbuster, a $2 billion movie, sucks up all the oxygen at the box office. In its first week, "Avengers: Endgame" sold 88% of the movie tickets that were purchased in North America, leaving just 12% to be split by more than a hundred other movies that might as well not have been open. Go back to other mega-blockbusters, and you see the same thing. They take up all the oxygen - "Avengers: Infinity War," "The Last Jedi," "The Force Awakens," "Black Panther."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK PANTHER")

DANAI GURIRA: (As Okoye) Wakanda forever.

MONDELLO: Each took in about 80% of their opening weekends, crushing everything else at the multiplex - small wonder that other studios have learned to steer clear of these all-consuming box office behemoths, which has been fine historically because mega-blockbusters have tended to open in the summer when kids are out of school for a while and the other studios can still jockey for position. Let the season's 800-pound gorilla dominate Memorial Day. There's still the Fourth of July and the rest of July and August for other big films to have a shot at families on vacation. But as big as summer weeks can be at the box office...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS")

JASON LEE: (As Dave) Alvin...

MONDELLO: ...There's one holiday week that's bigger.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS")

JUSTIN LONG: (As Alvin) OK...

MONDELLO: Christmas week is reliably, almost invariably, the biggest single week of Hollywood's year. That's why so many films angle to be in theaters at Christmastime - "Alvin And The Chipmunks" and other feel-good holiday movies, awards contenders like "Lord Of The Rings"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING")

ELIJAH WOOD: (As Frodo) I'm going to Mordor alone.

SEAN ASTIN: (As Sam) Of course you are. And I'm coming with you.

MONDELLO: ...Costume epics, comedies, action flicks...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Your mission, should you choose to...

MONDELLO: ...Every studio opens something big in late December, which has resulted for years in a happy flotilla of blockbusters that play to different audience segments, lifting all boats. But Disney recently made an announcement that's going to change that. Now that the company controls all of the franchises in the $2 billion club - Marvel, "Star Wars" and "Avatar" - it doesn't have to play chicken with other studios about opening dates. It can just claim them. And it has for the next eight years. Marvel has never opened at Christmas and still won't. Its superheroes will own the summers. But in late December from now until 2027, Disney is going to alternate...

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS - MAIN TITLE")

MONDELLO: ..."Star Wars" sagas nine, 10, 11 and 12 with...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONDELLO: ..."Avatars" two, three, four and five. So if you're sitting at Warner Bros. or Universal or Sony and you have an awards contender you need to open at year's end for it to have a decent shot at Oscars and you'd rather it didn't get flattened in its opening week, what's your plan? Disney won't care about what any other studios will do at Christmas because the only thing they can do is get out of the way. And audiences - well, they'll vote with their ticket dollars. Happy holidays. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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