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Friday, January 02, 2015 

Comics are big business...for moviemaking

CNBC's telling how comics are big business, but a closer look shows it's as a wellspring for movies:
For what has for many years been the preserve of the young and the geeky, comic books and other pieces of "nerd culture" entered the mainstream this year with six of the top 10 grossing films in 2014 linked to a graphic novel.

"Guardians of the Galaxy", based on a Marvel Comics franchise, was the top grossing film in U.S. theatres, making over $332 million in the box office and $772 million worldwide.

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" – based on a children's toy and TV series of the 1990s – made the most money globally this year by grossing over $1 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.
They start off by telling all about the big bucks made at the box office in Hollywood for movies based on comics, and that only gives a clue to the real picture - Hollywood saw them as the next best moneymaking source, but does little to encourage anyone to try the original stuff printed on paper.

Since they've also cited toy franchises like Transformers, it's worth noting for starters that the toys were first launched a decade earlier by Hasbro Corp, ditto the first cartoon based on them, and comics. What was broadcast in the 1990s was a CGI cartoon called Beast Wars, related to the franchise. And I'll have to note that the movies, alas, are some of the most overrated popcorn fare ever based on toys, and became considerably worse with each consecutive entry. The Transformers films are just more examples of movies relying on too much special effects glitz to compensate for the lack of a solid story. (Update: and some people on the Dixonverse forum say even Transformer fans don't seem to find the Michael Bay movies very appealing.)

Now, onto a bit more from this article, here's something telling:
Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, an entertainment business research firm, told CNBC via email that Hollywood is "in love" with comic book movies as "superheroes are synonymous with merchandising -- the toys, the video games, the marketing tie-ins."
And that's the real reason Hollywood's taken a liking to comic book superheroes, because they make for the best merchandise tie-ins, and dollar signs. But, as is apparent, the civilian plainclothes co-stars in the comics never get the same attention, if at all. Now, here's where it gets baffling. First, they say:
This year 2014's top six comic and tie-in movies grossed more than $4.7 billion worldwide; the industry's influence has generated interest elsewhere, from retail sales to fan conventions.

For physical comic book sales, there has been an increase year-on-year in the U.S. alone. The country's top distributor of comic books, Diamond Comic Distributors, has had a continual sales increase since 2011, with the distributor's estimated revenue reaching $517.6 million in 2013, up by around 9 percent since 2012, according to Comichron.com.
But then they say:
While the movie tie-in has its legions of fans, this does not necessarily translate into more comic book readers.

"The movie tie-in comics get a small boost that doesn't last long", despite companies trying, says De Blieck.
This part is particularly confusing. If not many more people are joining the audience, why did they say earlier there's "an increase"? That doesn't make sense. I figure the smaller companies are getting more audience, which might account for Diamond's sales, but the mainstream superheroes have long remained stagnant, save for brief boosts from publicity stunts, and many of those copies probably gather dust on the store shelves. And even the smaller companies aren't doing much better in terms of pamphlet sales, because they sell in such small numbers, you can't call it a convincing success.

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The "increased sales" don't necessarily indicate an increase in the number of fans/readers. It may reflect a trend of collectors (and speculators) buying multiple copies of each issue. That seems especially likely with what are expected to be big events and key issues (e.g., death of a major character), as well as variant covers and other special editions.

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