Updated from 10:32 a.m. to include analyst comments in the seventh paragraph.
Fox's (FOXA) Deadpool just had the most successful R-rated movie opening of all time with a domestic weekend box office of around $150 million.
How did no one see this coming?
Deadpool, which stars Ryan Reynolds as the title character and Special Ops Wade Wilson, is not your prototypical superhero movie -- heck, the opening credits have become part of the cultural zeitgeist, referring to the writers as "The Real Heroes Here," Director Tim Miller as an "Overpaid Tool" and Reynolds himself as "God's Perfect Idiot."
The movie openly acknowledges that it's playing in February 2016, with a line aimed at women noting that their boyfriends told them this was not a prototypical superhero movie, while making mention of Valentine's Day.
You get the idea -- the movie pokes fun at itself, doesn't take itself too seriously and speaks to both sexes, in that the movie is just as much a love story between Reynolds' Wilson and his love interest, Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin.
The movie has resonated extraordinarily well with fans. It has an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates critics' and fans' responses, as well as a 8.7 rating on IMDB, a movie database website. By comparison, Marvel's PG-13-rated The Avengers, the most financially successful comic book movie of all time with a global box office surpassing $1.5 billion, has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 8.1 rating on IMDB.
"It's interesting if you're editing a superhero movie now, if you're going for a PG-13 rating, you could use Deadpool to amp up the edginess or the language," comScore (SCOR - Get Report) senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said by phone. "This is a great test case for a movie that was the most unlikely of blockbuster hits, particularly on paper and turned out to be."
Deadpool has an estimated $150 million domestic box office, while earning $132.1 million overseas, for a total haul of $282.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
Deadpool may have also done well as it got the jump on the crowded 2016 slate of superhero movies, including Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad.
February is generally seen as a slow time for the box office, sandwiched between the Christmas box office season and the start of the summer movie season. Increasingly though, it doesn't matter when movies are released on the calendar -- if the content is good (The Lego Movie, released in Feb. 2014) or there's a built-in fanbase (50 Shades of Grey, released in Feb. 2015) the box office should come through.
Superhero movies tend to take themselves too seriously and Deadpool is just the opposite of that. Just from the image above, it's clear this isn't your father's superhero movie. It breaks the fourth wall constantly, makes fun of the Fox studio for producing too many X-Men movies (a line about getting confused between James McAvoy's and Patrick Stewart's timelines as Professor Xavier is a classic) and has a star in Reynolds that is perfectly believable as a sarcastic mercenary with a heart of gold, given his past performances in Van Wilder, Just Friends and The Proposal.
(Little known fact: This isn't the first time Reynolds has played Wilson. He did so in Fox's 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine as well).
Costing a relatively inexpensive (for a superhero movie) $58 million, Deadpool was projected to take in around $60-$70 million in its opening, but it shattered expectations, paving the way for not only more Deadpool movies, but potentially more R-rated superhero movies as well.
Marvel's Punisher is one name that comes to mind that could be a successful R-rated movie, if done right.
Punisher is slated to appear to Netflix's (NFLX - Get Report) second season of the popular Daredevil series, but could be much more, given the history of the character. Daredevil is rated TV-MA, so the more mature audience allows Netflix and Disney's (DIS - Get Report) Marvel unit to get more creative and amp up the intensity and violence, the same with Netflix's anti-heroine comic book show, Jessica Jones.
The Punisher (also known as Frank Castle), is an anti-hero, much in the way Wade Wilson is, one who enjoys murdering, kidnapping, or just simply using violence as he tries to eradicate crime. The character was played three times on the silver screen, once by Dolph Lundgren, once by Thomas Jane (the most successful commercially) and most recently by Ray Stevenson.
However, none of those movies enjoyed the type of commercial success and appeal that Deadpool has had, paving the way to try it again.
Other anti-heros that could be successful at the box office include Time Warner's (TWX) DC Comics Black Adam, a role Hollywood A-lister The Rock is set to play in Shazam, later this decade. While sometimes thought of as a traditional villain, Black Adam has been portrayed more recently as someone who is trying to clear his name, albeit at any cost.
Deadpool has obviously resonated with fans, for one reason or another (or perhaps several), paving the way for more R-rated superhero movies to come, including the continuation of the Deadpool franchise.
It appears "the merc with a mouth" has struck a nerve with the movie-going population, one that's likely to resonate for some time to come.