Pedestrians walk past an “Avengers: Endgame” marquee at the Grand Lake theater in Oakland, California, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

‘Endgame’ Directors Say Success Fueled by Social Media, Serialized Stories

(Bloomberg) -- How did “Avengers: Endgame” shatter box-office records in its opening weekend? To hear the movie’s directors tell it, the success stemmed from a few key ingredients, including social-media buzz and a serialized approach to filmmaking.

But the rise of streaming services also helped, according to Anthony and Joe Russo, the brother duo that oversaw “Endgame” and other blockbusters for Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. Despite fears that Netflix Inc. and other online platforms will depress movie attendance, the services can help get fans get excited about franchises -- and get them into theaters.

“They’re supercharging each other,” Joe Russo, 47, said of video streaming and the movie business. “There’s just an addiction to content consumption. This generation is craving a new kind of storytelling.”

The brothers spoke Monday on a panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, laying out their tips for filmmakers looking to replicate the success of “Endgame.”

Serialized Stories

The brothers have directed four Marvel movies, including “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” which took the super trooper out of his frozen past into the modern age. With “Captain America: Civil War” they persuaded Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. to be a bad guy for a bit, leading to superhero infighting and ultimately a loss at the end of last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”

“You have to take chances,” Joe Russo said. “You have to surprise the audience. They’ll tell you they like chocolate ice cream. If you give it to them 15 times in a week, they won’t.”

Social Media

The brothers have 1.7 million Instagram followers and like to drop nuggets about the projects they are working on -- but try not to reveal too much or be too controversial.

“We like to tease the fans,” Joe Russo said. “We put clues out there that are very inscrutable. We don’t respond directly to fans, but we put information out there they can have conversations about. People from all over the world can talk to each other instantaneously. It will reach millions of people in a an hour all over the world.”

Day-and-Date Releases

Movie studios used to stagger their releases in countries around the world, due in part to varying holidays and school schedules. “Endgame” came out in nearly all its major markets at roughly the same time, creating a global event that got people talking in advance and attending theaters in groups -- some even in costume.

“It’s critical, because of that collective experience,” said Anthony Russo, 49. ‘‘It can feel a little like a rock concert, the crowds are so vocal. That’s a whole dimension to the experience that can’t be achieved at home.”

Director-Driven Stories

The brothers were studying law and acting in their hometown of Cleveland when they read about Robert Rodriguez making “El Mariachi” for $7,000. They borrowed money and spent three years making their own independent film, which caught the eye of director Steven Soderbergh. He became their champion, and the brothers went on to direct TV shows such as the cult hit “Arrested Development.”

When Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige was picking filmmakers to oversee the series, he opted for independent directors. That made a big difference for the franchise, Anthony Russo said.

Indie directors “come in and put their stamp,” he said. “They have their own tone. That’s what keeps these exciting.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.