Highlands & Islands

Superheroes films battle at cinema box office

The Avengers. Pic: AP/Disney
Image caption Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Chris Evans as Captain America in The Avengers

Superhero showdowns will transfer from the pages of comic books to cinema screens this year.

Marvel's Avengers, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider will trade blows at the box office with DC Comic's Batman and British comic hero Judge Dredd.

The movies feature some of Hollywood's biggest names, such as Nicolas Cage, Scarlett Johansson, Will Smith and Robert Downey Jnr.

UK talent also features prominently and includes Belfast actor Ciarán Hinds, Welshman Rhys Ifans and Londoners Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hardy and director Christopher Nolan.

Another UK actor, Christian Bale, returns to the role of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, which has scenes that were shot in the Cairngorms in the Highlands and at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham.

Next year's Superman movie, Man of Steel, will star the first non-American to don the red cape - Henry Cavill, who is from Jersey in the Channel Islands.

The hype is being cranked up ahead of the films' release dates with trailers for most now available online.

Image caption Avengers have provided the cover stars for Empire magazine's March edition

The front cover of Empire film magazine's March subscribers' edition features four of the cast from The Avengers.

Inside, the magazine has described it as one of the film industry's most ambitious.

The movie will attempt to bring together some of Marvel's - and Hollywood's - most famous characters and actors.

The production costs of the blockbusters are huge and the potential rewards at the box office massive.

According to the website The Numbers, worldwide figures for recent comic spin-off movies have run into hundreds of millions of poundss.

Thor - directed by Belfast-born Kenneth Branagh - hammered rivals with $449m (£285.7m). Captain America: The First Avenger took $368m (£234m) and X Men: First Class $368m (£234m).

But the films are expected to have varying effects on the sales of the comic books, according to Gary Davis who runs Inverness comic store Heroes for Sale.

He said: "Sales can rise in the run-up to the release of a film and then fall away immediately after the film's release.

"Copies of Alan Moore's Watchmen sold well before the film was shown.

"Mark Millar's Kick-Ass 2 comic, however, has also sold well following his original Kick-Ass story and its movie version.

"But often, after the release of a film, sales can drop off.

"I used to work in a book shop and we sold lots of copies of Lord of the Rings, which was great at £30 a book, but the sales fell away once the films were shown."

While not a comic book or a graphic novel, sales of Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse illustrate the effect a film can have on book sales.

The novel has seen a dramatic rise in sales since the release of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated film version of the story.

It has sold more copies in the UK in a fortnight, than it did worldwide in the 25 years after it was first published.

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