Marvel Studios has just been dealt the most significant financial blow in the fifteen years since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the latest entry in the sprawling franchise has only managed a disastrous $47 million in its opening weekend. This pales in comparison to 2019’s Captain Marvel, which made $153.4 million on its opening weekend, more than three times its sequel!
For even more context, this is worse than Black Adam’s $67 million or The Flash’s $55 million, with the former failing to break even, while the latter went on to become one of the biggest box office bombs ever, as it was estimated to have cost at least $300 million to make, including marketing. Although The Flash raked in $270 million at the box office, Warner Bros. Discovery is said to have lost about $200 million when the dust settled. Do you know what other movie is said to have cost $300 million? You guessed it, The Marvels and it’s already doing worse than The Flash!
And things could get worse again for Marvel, as another movie they released earlier in the year, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, hauled a solid $104 million in its opening weekend, but its numbers fell off a cliff the following weekend with box office receipts dropping by a whopping 69%. While I don’t expect a drop quite so severe, that’s only because it will surely make more $15 million. What I don’t expect is for the numbers to spike by virtue of word of mouth or reviews, as The Marvels is proving to be another divisive release in the MCU, which has become far more commonplace in this post-Thanos era.
But this is about more than just pure numbers. As I wrote two weeks ago, we are likely at a tipping point for superhero cinema, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as we see the likes of Marvel and DC recognizing the changing tides, making drastic changes to the way they are producing these shared universes. Even Disney’s own Bob Iger, who returned to the company as CEO to clean up the mess left by his predecessor Bob Chapek, stated last week that “I’ve always felt that quantity can be actually a negative when it comes to quality. And I think that’s exactly what happened….We lost some focus”, clearly bracing himself for the weekend that was to come.
Iger is not wrong about losing focus. Two of the three main characters of the movie, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (played by Ontario native Iman Vellani) debuted in WandaVision and Miss Marvel respectively, so this is their first MCU feature film in what has become an overstuffed universe. Additionally, while Brie Larson, the film’s other lead is a household name with an Oscar under her belt, Parris and Vellani could have done with a press tour to boost their images, but their commercial viability outside the TV sphere was hampered by the actresses’ inability promote the movie, in the build-up to The Marvels’ release due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which literally ended the day before said release.
These numerous factors make for what will undoubtedly go down as the MCU’s first major commercial failure, and it now becomes a question of whether Marvel can adapt to a climate where its movies are no longer financial home runs.