Being in the MCU fandom at a time when the canon is all over the news and entities like Google are celebrating a movie's release with you is a curious feeling. One of my favorite quotes came from Slate:
"In China, it earned $107.2 million on its Wednesday debut, the country’s largest single-day box office haul. It also broke the single-day box office records in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Egypt, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad, the U.K., and Uruguay. What’s more, it set top opening day records in Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey, and the Ukraine.
That’s 28 of the 193 member states in the United Nations, or just under 15%, the greatest international consensus anyone has achieved since we agreed we weren’t going to do anything about climate change."
Some outlets go further in speculating what it means:
"The entire industry is in a complete state of shock. Streaming crushing the theatrical business? Um, don’t think so. This is what happens when you have a great movie that the entire world wants to see, and exhibition and theatrical truly work together to make it a major success. "
The closest thing I can recall to it is the excitement around Star Wars. However, that was different because I remember the fever circulating around the first movie the most, which was a total dark horse. Plus, since it was new, no one had been a fan of it when it was first released. And yes, there was a lot of excitement around RotJ when it came out, by which time many people were fans and everyone was expecting it to do well. But there was a 3 year gap in between films, and at the time it was still a genre that mostly younger people wanted to see. So the difference to someone in their teens between the beginning and end of the trilogy was significant.
(More recently I expect it's like having been in HP fandom, but that passed me right by so I'm talking only of my personal experience).
What the MCU's success says to me is that the general public has shifted to the more fannish side which is why attendance is so high. While I doubt even a fifth of moviegoers are actually serious MCU fans, that's still a pretty big number. And even if people aren't fans, it doesn't matter, because like Star Wars the general details of the fandom are already part of cultural knowledge. I'd argue it took more than a decade post-trilogy before the same could really be said of Star Wars.
I've been lucky to be in various large fandoms -- but the difference for properties like Merlin or Supernatural (or even Buffy) is that there is a difference between the fandom being large and the property being part of the cultural vernacular. SPN could well be called the largest stealth media fandom ever seen and was barely visible before its intended 5 year run concluded.
By comparison I can walk into a grocery store and carry out my purchases in MCU gift bags. There are phone cases, car decals, laptop stickers, USB sticks, special meals or food items -- everyday things that go beyond toys and fannish collectibles. It's certainly the second most significant legacy George Lucas will be leaving for fans, one might even argue it's the first, the way that any major property gets marketed to infinity. But not every property is seen to have that market -- at least today.
It strikes me that the intention to keep running the MCU until, presumably, the financial well has run dry, may have it breaking other kinds of records. I'm pretty sure no other film series has ever been an ongoing thing in the same way because of significant gaps between canon releases. The Fast and Furious Franchise still comes out only every few years, although it has been going on longer than the MCU. The gaps between Star Wars or Jurassic Park releases could be argued to be separate fandoms (much as the Star Trek film releases have been), as are the HP films and Fantastic Beasts series.
What's more, Disney plans to add still MORE canon by adding tie-in TV series with the same characters, if not actors. There is a merging here of TV and movie fandoms, with theatrical attendance becoming like a con event rather than because it's actually necessary to see the movies in that venue. And that sort of action, which given Disney's box office clout (they own 11 of the top 12 openings of all time), makes it entirely possible that cinema going will be transformed as a more mainstream form of fan con with theaters becoming interaction spaces, not just movie theaters.
For example, "AMC had showtimes available into the late night with 1:45 a.m., 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. showtimes with 3D midnight shows sold out. Meanwhile, across the street at the Regal, shows were sold out into the wee hours of the morning, with only 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. available." One could see 24 hour viewing parties becoming the new midnight showing, with people waiting for their showtime doing other things like browsing dealer rooms, doing live music or karaoake, or having panels and contests. (There would obviously be a noise issue, but that could be mitigated by separate spaces for crowds vs theaters).
There's already use of multiplexes to view TV shows or filmed theater performances. I could see this expanding for events where getting together to view a fandom event together is the main point.
Speaking of movie theaters, I was struck by this guide to screens in Cleveland which reveals dramatic differences in costs among theaters in the same area, from $5.28 to $18.28. And the cost difference may not have much to do with experience: "At 60-feet wide, Lakeshore’s XXDXP theater is billed as the largest digital screen in Cleveland. Also, it is the cheapest option among the theaters listed, with no additional charge for the larger screen." This is just another argument for why the film industry needs to report its results in terms of tickets sold rather than money earned. But it also reveals a disparity for fans.
How much do tickets cost in your area?