Before Iron Man, superhero films were already seven years into gaining the public's goodwill with flicks like Spider-Man, X-Men, and that inexplicably successful Ben Affleck Daredevil movie with playground grappling foreplay. So, when it came time for Marvel to bring us a swank gentlebeard quipping in an exoskeleton, audiences were DTF Y2K.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
"OMG!! *****!1" -My review on LiveJournal
But something seems to be forgotten with the creation of upcoming franchises like Universal Monsters (no, seriously): The Marvel films didn't succeed because of the expanded universe model; they succeeded because they're awesome and everyone loves superhero films. That said, even with the popularity of Batman and X-Men on their side, Warner Bros. and Fox will always play second fiddle to Disney's Avengers because audiences simply don't have the stamina to see that many goddamn movies.
According to the MPAA, your standard schmo sees an average of four theatrical movies per year. And with at least eight major comic book adaptations set for 2017 alone, general audiences will always be choosing one franchise over the other. And let's face it, we all know who the sad loser is in that race. "Sad" being the operative word.
Warner Bros. Pictures