Just six years after the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially opened for business with Iron Man, the franchise has hit a major box-office landmark.
According to Box Office Mojo, the MCU -- officially encompassing the nine films released since 2008 under the Marvel Studios banner -- is now the highest-grossing franchise in U.S. box-office history, outdistancing both the Star Wars and Harry Potter series.
The MCU films have grossed a total of $2.46 billion at the domestic box office alone, with Harry Potter (eight films) second at just under $2.4 billion and Star Wars (six installments) standing in third place with $1.9 billion.
The rest of the Top 10 includes the 24 James Bond movies ($1.91 billion), seven Batman pictures ($1.9 billion), The Lord of the Rings ($1.6 billion), the Shrek quartet ($1.4 billion), the four Spider-Man entries ($1.38 billion), the five Twilight adaptations ($1.36 billion) and four Pirates of the Caribbean films ($1.28 billion).
Now, of course, ticket prices are much higher now than they were when the first Star Wars came out -- and 3D has inflated them further -- so that always has to be taken into consideration. But a lot of the Harry Potter movies benefited from those prices, too, and Marvel managed to decisively edge out the Boy Who Lived, as well (the survey does not take foreign box office into account).
What does it all mean? Well, in the grand scheme of things, there are far more important things going on in the world. But it does prove that the idea hatched less than a decade ago and thought to be crazy at at the time -- uniting as many comic-book characters as possible in a shared world spanning multiple movies -- struck a chord with audiences bigtime. Who would have thought back then we'd be looking forward to movies starring Ant-Man, Ultron, Doctor Strange and Thanos in the next few years, along with Cap, Thor, Iron Man and all the rest?
More than two billion dollars later, it's a reality.