Armor Wars Becoming a Movie Isn’t an Upgrade

During both San Diego Comic-Con 2022 and the D23 Fan Expo, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans noticed scant news about the previously announced Armor Wars starring Don Cheadle. The story, it seems, is still in very early production having shifted from a Disney+ series to a feature film. However, Armor Wars changing from a series to a movie isn’t the upgrade or promotion people think.

For as long as there has been television and movies, the latter always enjoyed higher esteem. As box office grosses skyrocketed in the age of the blockbuster, this chasm seemed to widen even as TV budgets also grew in the era of Prestige TV. Still, MCU fans remember when Inhumans was (seemingly rightly) demoted from a film to an ABC TV series. Today, the age of streaming blurs these lines, especially since Marvel Studios’ series are of a similar quality to its movies. The movie is certainly good news for Cheadle, and Marvel Studios, which can make Armor Wars into its Top Gun: Maverick replacing the planes with people-suits. It’s also good news if the story Marvel Studios wants to tell fits better in three hours than six. Yet, to look at the feature films as more important than the shows in the eyes of the fans or the business is a mistake.

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Armor Wars Might Be More Valuable as a Disney+ Series

There are a lot of concerning things about the way media companies are organized today, specifically how few studios own, well, everything. Absent those concerns, from a coldly business-focused perspective, the direct-to-consumer model is the ideal end state for media in the digital age. When Moonlighting debuted on ABC in the 1980s, one of the reasons it made waves was that it was the first show produced by the network that aired it. It felt dangerously monopolistic in those days. Today, the ABC network is part of the Disney family. That kind of vertical integration is just one way in which Disney ensures that it makes all the money from the content it produces. Feature films make big bucks, but the profits can end up going to producers or actors who gave up salary for a share of the take. Grosses are split, arguably not fairly, with the movie theaters themselves. When a person pays a monthly subscription to Disney for Disney+, and pays for a “Premier Release” on top of that, all the money goes to the Mouse.

With 44.5 million subscribers paying about $8, Disney takes in more than $335 million per month. Already, that’s more in 30 days than the domestic lifetime gross of all but the top 15-earning Marvel films (five of which were films released by other studios), according to Box Office Mojo. If Disney ends up with just half of Netflix’s 220 million subscribers, they’ll be raking in about a billion per month, without even raising their monthly fee. While the big screen still has that prestige feel, the direct-to-consumer side of the business may quickly become the most important to studios like Disney with massive libraries and franchises that people love. Armor Wars may belong in theatres, and Don Cheadle deserves his solo movie. Yet, one only needs to look at Lucasfilm and how important Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni are to Kathleen Kennedy to see how the Disney+ side of the MCU could become the marquee stars to shareholders.

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The Disney+ Connection Is More Personal to MCU Fans

Movie stars are famous, a kind of special that sets them above regular folks. Television stars, however, are much more approachable. No less lovely or talented, they just feel closer to their TV faves by virtue of fans’ experiences with them being in their homes each week. Anyone who saw Avengers: Endgame or Spider-Man: No Way Home knows how fun the communal experience of cheering and clapping made those films. Yet, unless Sony rereleases the movie a third time, people will most often experience those movies via home viewing. Previously, TV shows stood apart from their big screen cousins, yet on Disney+ She-Hulk spirit Mrs. Marvel are right there next to the Avengers, Shang-Chi and the other MCU movie stars.

Again, Armor Wars sounds like the kind of story that will make for great cheering and clapping cinema. But no matter how many times someone will see it in theaters, they’ll watch it at least twice as many times at home. Like Endgame, Armor Wars could become a movie people rewatch and remember the theater experience. Yet, fans can relive the experience of discovery with shows like Daredevil or WandaVision whenever they want. There is every reason to believe that Armor Wars should be a movie, but calling it a promotion isn’t as sure a thing as it once was.

Source: Box Office Mojo

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