The million-dollar question is, do movie releases affect comic sales? The short and sweet of it is – not very often and not very much.
We don’t have data for any movie release older than September 1996, so the first movie we have data on is Batman & Robin, which released in June 1997. I have also chosen to only look at DC releases because I do have a life.
There are a few different ways to look at this. I chose the number of titles sold (in the event that extra promotional issues are released) and the total quantity of books sold (increased interest in the hero or group that week). When a superhero movie is highly anticipated, it would make sense to ride the wave of excitement and add a few more books to the average line up. These are easy to spot because they will be called “movie adaptation” or “supervillain/hero of the upcoming movie special”. Of course, there could be a few reasons for a rise or fall in this category besides a new film. Holidays sales, reorders, non-monthly titles, seasonal slumps, line reboots, or other reasons could play a factor.
The graphs down below show the available data, but I’m just going to pull out the few standouts to mention here.
2005, Batman Begins: A total of fourteen extra single titles released during the movie release month as opposed to the ten the month prior. The new additions were Year One: Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul, Batman Villains Secret Files 2005, Batman Allies Secret Files 2005, and Batman Begins Movie Adaptation. Total Batman book sales were up 70% from the month before.
2006, Superman Returns: A total of nine Superman books released the month of the film release, six higher than the month prior. Sales were up 40% from the month prior.
2008, The Dark Knight: Though there were only two extra singles that month, Batman vs. Scarecrow and an extra Batman issue, overall single sales were up 61% from the previous month. Trade sales also went up 103%, having eight new book releases, five books more than the previous month.
2012, The Dark Knight Rises: Trades sold went from six books two months prior to movie releasee, sixteen books one month prior, and then thirty-three books released during the movie release month. That month a total of 70.5k trades were sold, a 446% increase from the month before. Single issue titles went down the movie release month, but total sales were up 70% from the month before.
2016, Suicide Squad: A total of eight singles released during movie release month, opposed to the two from the previous month (totals for Suicide Squad and the Harley Quinn titles) adding up to an increase in sales of 1,285% from the previous month. HOWEVER, the movie release happened at the same time as DC’s Rebirth, so the issues released were Suicide Squad #1, Suicide Squad Rebirth #1, Suicide Squad War Crimes Special, Suicide Squad: Most Wanted El Diablo & Boomerang, and Harley Quinn #1. Trades sold went from five books two months prior, fifteen books one month prior, then up to sixteen books released during movie release month, totaling 26.7k trades sold that month, up 31% from the previous month.
Conclusion: Newer movie releases don’t really seem to affect sales. 2005-2012. When the Nolan movies came out they were actually successful (sorry, Joel Schumacher fans) and the conclusion of such a successful franchise probably did garner interest in the comics. Suicide Squad sales came about during the (as yet to end) Harley Quinn craze and the huge Rebirth re-launch, so I would be very hesitant (and in denial) to say the film release alone inspired such amazing increase in sales. There are usually moderate increases in trade sales, but as a whole, there is nothing so remarkable it suggests that throngs of new readers are flocking to the stores whenever a new superhero movie releases. All in all, movie releases add a nice little wave of interest, but that is about it.
See my fabulous tables below.