Rooting for Thor
It was Hiddlemas Eve in Los Angeles last night as the Thor: The Dark World press tour wound to a close with the US premiere of the movie ahead of opening on Friday. The patron saint of Hiddlemas, Saint Tom the Huge Dork, was in attendance, wearing a suit that trended dangerously close to his Banker Suit Problem, but a geometric pattern just saves it. Tom Hiddleston has put on a good show all year for Marvel, carrying the bulk of the promotional duties and doing anything and everything asked of him; twee he may be, but his professionalism can’t be criticized. His latest shill is a TV spot for Comedy Central, in full Loki-drag, spoofing those AT&T commercials with the kindergartners. It’s a cute spot, but nothing will top The Dancing.
At the end of the day, all this Hiddleston-hustling is about money. Studio math is, as I’ve said, notoriously dodgy. Marvel is generally better about that than most studios, but they’re not above engaging in some underhanded tactics. So let’s run it down and talk about why we should all be rooting for Thor (hint: it has nothing to do with the actors).
Thor 2’s budget was about $200 million, and the marketing budget was a staggering $100 million MINIMUM. So they are, conservatively, $300 million in the tank on Thor 2. And remember, their opening weekend projection was $75 million (though external projections have raised the bar to $85 million). The movie opened internationally last weekend and raked in $109 million, getting off to a strong overseas start, which has, for Marvel, historically been a good omen for big domestic debuts. So what’s the most important number to keep in mind?
Despite their official projection of $75 million—the number the executives at Marvel deemed most reasonable to expect on the domestic opening weekend—the employee bonuses hinge on the movie making $100 million. That is some sh*tty studio math if ever I saw it. “Hey guys, you’ll all get bonuses if the movie makes $100 million! But we only expect it to make $75 million! Haha, math is fun!”
When studios engage in shady math, the headline is always that they’re hiding profits to keep from paying back-end deals to actors (see also: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). But it isn’t just the actors who get screwed—employee bonuses follow similar box office earning patterns. Who really cares about rich actors getting richer? No one. But I do care about the hundreds of Regular Citizens who work on these movies for years—actors usually put in six months on average—and don’t make millions. Most make Regular Citizen salaries and have Regular Citizen problems like mortgages, car payments, kids’ braces. As with most Regular Citizens, bonuses are a welcome addition to the household budget.
So you see Tom Hiddleston, dancing and shilling his heart out, and yes, of course, he benefits. It’s good for his profile and his reputation—don’t think other studios aren’t noticing how hard he works—and if they make a bunch of money, so does he. But there’s also the Marvel employees, hoping that come next Monday, they get the good news that all that hustling paid off and they’ll be getting paid, too.
Click here to see Loki with the kids.