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Programming the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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One of the critical aspects of a conference producer’s job is program planning. Whether it’s a one-off conference or a brand of recurring conferences, the programming determines the kinds of the people a conference platform will be able to attract, and perhaps even the kinds of interactions the people at the conference can be expected to have. A Comic-Con event will look and feel drastically different from a UN General Assembly for example, and at the root of all their differences is the fact that the two events have different programming, and thus are being organized for different purposes.

As you guys know, I often like to look for inspiration across different industries and mediums outside of just the events industry, and that is why today I’d like to spend some time to explore one of my favorite film franchises and in fact the most financially successful film franchise in the history of the world: The Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I am someone who tends to be a creature of habit. As such, my approach of entertainment and life in general is oftentimes to find a few brands and franchises I like, and then just stick with them. There are many film franchises that I consider myself a loyal fan to — James Bond, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the Fast and Furious series, etc. — but what makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe so incredibly unique is the way they have built up the universe. In almost all film franchises, the central characters are introduced in the first film, and they are present in everything thereafter that the franchise delivers. The Marvel Cinematic Universe on the other hand, was built up and is continuing to be built up in the almost exact opposite way. Whether it’s the Avengers buildup of the summer blockbusters or the Defenders buildup of the Netflix series, the MCU’s approach is to first introduce each main character through his or her own movie or series, then interweave the stories together to form one coherent universe, then — as only seen yet through Avengers — have the characters each go back to his or her own storyline once again.

Perhaps even more so than loving all their productions as a fan, I have loved the brilliance of everything about the content programming strategy that the MCU has employed to build up its universe. I love the stories and interweaving, and I love the pacing of their content releases as well. Just about once a year, we can count on a new summer blockbuster for a new character, and a new summer blockbuster for a character we already know, and a new season of TV show they’ve already introduced, and a new TV show of a character we have yet to see. We started in 2008 with the very first entry of the universe: the groundbreaking Iron Man movie. Now, we have in this universe the Avengers, we have the Agents of Shield and Agent Carter on ABC, and we have Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist on Netflix.

When Chris Nolan had the Batman projects, I said DC was beating Marvel far and away in the comic book movies genre. Since Nolan left, the reverse has been happening. The package of Superman, Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, Arrow, and Gotham titles in the DC franchise today is nowhere near as successful as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both commercially and critically. Will Gal Gadot be able to save that universe singlehandedly via Wonder Woman? Only time will tell…

See you at the next exploration!

Harry

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