In 2008, three years after Marvel reacquired the film rights to genius-billionaire-playboy-turned-superhero Tony Stark, Marvel Studios premiered Iron Man—its first self-financed film. But not even Marvel could have known at the time what it would become.
Iron Man went on to gross $585 million worldwide, a decent-sized return, and it was met with enthusiasm by audiences and critics. It proved that people would go see a movie about a superhero not named Batman or Superman. More importantly, it became the foundation on which the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe was built.
The movie, starring Robert Downey Jr., was meant to be one of 10 titles that would revolve around Marvel’s library of beloved comic-book characters, including The Incredible Hulk, and The Black Panther. But by the following year, Disney had bought Marvel for $4 billion, and that plan for 10 movies grew exponentially. The Marvel Cinematic Universe now includes more than 15 movies that have collectively grossed $11.8 billion worldwide, and at least a dozen more on the way.
Nearly a decade after Marvel Studios’s first production, Wonder Woman might just be on track to do the same thing for DC’s superhero universe that Iron Man did for Marvel. The film, released on June 2 in the US, is projected to bring in $380-400 million at the US and Canadian box office by the end of its theatrical run—on par with what Iron Man grossed domestically in 2008, when adjusted for 2017 ticket prices, Box Office Mojo data showed.
Globally, Wonder Woman already has Iron Man beat, unadjusted for inflation, and it is expected to rise above the $800 million mark worldwide when all is said and done.
DC, with movie studio Warner Bros., has been trying since Man of Steel in 2013 to recreate the Marvel model of crossover mega-franchises that has worked so well for Disney and has since been copied by studios like Universal. But it didn’t have a breakout movie, like Iron Man, to hinge it all on. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel was a mild success. Batman vs. Superman did better, but was lampooned by critics. And so was Suicide Squad.
Wonder Woman, which has the best reviews of the bunch by far, is expected to overtake all of them domestically. So far, it has grossed $289 million in the US and Canada, and $588 worldwide. The movie’s performance puts DC in a strong position ahead of Justice League, due out in November, which will unite DC’s superheroes like Marvel’s The Avengers did—that is, as long as it plays up its biggest asset, Diana Prince.