Maybe it's the cape; maybe it's the secret identity; maybe it's just because we all wish we could fly or have x-ray vision or turn green and rip our shirts off. Whatever the reason may be, comic-book-based superhero movies grab our attention - no matter how predictable the plot lines may be. (To learn more about summer movies, check out The Economics Of Summer Blockbuster Movies.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Top Earners for 2011
In the top 10 highest-earning movies for 2011, so far, superhero flicks have made quite a mark. The latest installment in the Transformers never-ending storyline of cars-turned-heroic-robots has transformed into $261 million in gross earnings. Further down the list, Thor has grossed over $175 million and the current X-Men movie (which one is this? third? fourth? fortieth?) has managed over $140 million.

Kung Fu Panda, while not a comic-book-based superhero movie, still gives us superheroes, albeit animated ones. Apparently, audiences will take superheroes in live action or animated form. Kung Fu Panda 2 has pulled in over $159 million in gross sales.

Highest Grossing Superhero Movies
Those are just the high earners for superhero movies produced in 2011. The highest grossing superhero movies have earnings that are staggering. Dark Knight made over $1 billion; all three Spider-Man movies made well over $700 million each, with the third reaching almost $900 million in earnings. And The Incredibles grossed over $600 million - another score for animation.

Not bad for the fan boys.

Those numbers are high, compared to movies of any genre. In 2009 the top-earning movies of all time, out of every genre, are all right around the $1 billion mark with the exception of Titanic (1997), which grossed closer to $2 billion. (For more on movies that make the most money, see Movie Genres That Make The Most Money.)

Highest Production Cost Superhero Movies
So a high-earning superhero movie is just a high-earning movie, period. High-earning movies can also be high-budget movies, racking up millions in production costs. An average production budget in 2006 was around $100 million. Production costs for superhero movie can easily top that average. Green Lantern, for example, cost close to $200 million to produce, and Thor around $160 million. Iron Man reportedly tallied up a bill of $150 million to produce.

How Many Superhero Movies Are There?
There are anywhere from 400 to 600 Hollywood-produced movies per year. Since 1978, there have been only 85 superhero movies produced (by Hollywood); of those 85, 22 were sequels. 2008 gave us eight superhero movies, the most of a single year thus far, according to an infographic by CinemaBlend.

Superhero movies are a small percentage of all the movies coming out of Hollywood, which makes it perhaps even more significant that three (or four, if you count Kung Fu Panda) of the current top-10 earners of 2011 are superhero movies.

Superhero Stocks Can Fly, Too
The companies that own these superheroes (and accompanying villains) are hoping to keep the superhero love alive. Marvel Entertainment, which owns Spider-Man, the Avengers, Thor and Iron Man, was named a top stock pick in 2008. Good call - Marvel's stock jumped 9.42% on the release of Iron Man alone. So if you really want to win big with superhero movies, buy some stock before the next big release ... and then smuggle in your own popcorn...

What will they do when they run out of superheroes? It's a money-making business, so don't expect superhero movies to quit appearing, as long as we keep lining up to see them. Think sequels, trilogies, spin-offs ... maybe a whole series of "Children of the Superheroes" is in order. Clark Kent Jr, anyone? (To see which movies have been successful in the past, see Top 10 Successful Movie Franchises.)

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Tribune Media: An Activist Investment Analysis (TRCO)

    Learn more about the breakup of Tribune Company, once a powerful newspaper and broadcasting giant, and the role of activist investor Cliff Robbins.
  2. Fundamental Analysis

    The World's Top 10 Entertainment Companies (CMCSA, CBS)

    Take a look at the world's top 10 entertainment companies, spanning the movie, television, cable television, gaming and streaming video sectors.
  3. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Dish Network Stock (DISH)

    Get insight about the potential risks of investing in Dish Network stock, such as its lack of cross-selling ability as an independent pay-TV provider.
  4. Stock Analysis

    Comcast Stock: A Dividend Analysis (CMCSA)

    Discover a detailed analysis of Comcast's dividend policy, and learn about its dividend coverage and payout ratios, which indicate future dividend growth.
  5. Investing Basics

    This is What Donald Trump's Portfolio Looks Like

    Find out what Donald Trump's portfolio looks like and gain some interesting insights into the way the billionaire's investment mind works.
  6. Personal Finance

    4 Famous People Whose Finances Were Under Conservatorship

    Understand what conservatorship is and how it comes about during the legal process. Learn about four celebrities who were placed under conservatorship.
  7. Stock Analysis

    7 Trump Businesses You Didn't Know Existed

    Understand what Donald Trump is best known for and the types of income streams he's created. Learn about seven obscure businesses he owns.
  8. Estate Planning

    A Look At Robin Williams' Net Worth and What Happened to His Estate

    Understand what happened to Robin Williams' estate and what his estate included. Learn about the court battle over his remaining possessions.
  9. Stock Analysis

    The Top 5 Large Cap Entertainment Stocks for 2016 (CBS, TWX)

    Discover what the top 5 large cap entertainment stocks are for 2016, with a summary, growth outlook and expected stock price target for each company.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Dish Network's 3 Key Financial Ratios (DISH)

    Understand why some key financial ratios for Dish Network are universally worse than its peers' and the industry average and how Dish may change all that.
  1. How are Rupert Murdoch's holdings distributed?

    Rupert Murdoch owns a controlling share of News Corporation and over 750 different businesses. Some of the major brands he ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How did Rupert Murdoch become a media mogul?

    Rupert Murdoch's father was a journalist and newspaper owner in Australia. Upon his death in 1952, Rupert inherited the News ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  2. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  3. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  4. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  5. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  6. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
Trading Center