“The Marvels” began its domestic box office run with just $6.6 million in Thursday preview grosses. That compares to the $20.7 million which “Captain Marvel” earned via advance-night showings in early 2019, which led to a $155 million opening weekend. A similar Thursday-to-weekend split (13.3%) would give the MCU action fantasy just $49.6 million for the weekend. That would be well below the $61 million that “Captain Marvel” earned on its first full day of theatrical release.
There is a grim irony that a major movie belonging to the MCU — a franchise that has often been credited (sometimes unfairly) with killing the movie star as a bankable variable — will open to comparatively miserable numbers partially because the trio of heroines — Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, Teyonah Parris — could not promote the film amid the SAG-AFTRA strike.
That’s not the entire reason for the downturn, but Marvel and the Walt Disney Company were certainly expecting the actress to aggressively sell the film and their characters to general audiences in the lead-up to release. Absent that, especially with two of the three characters having been introduced on Disney+ shows, the Nia DaCosta-directed “The Marvels” ended up seeming closer to a generic fantasy comedy that happened to take place in the MCU amid a time when merely existing within the MCU is less of an automatic hook.
That the reviews ended up merely being “okay” (61% fresh and 5.9/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) didn’t help. While the first “Captain Marvel” got a boost from being A) the first MCU movie fronted by a female superhero and B) a Marvel movie positioned between “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Marvels” lacked either of these advantages.
Moreover, without the cast out there pushing the film, most of the pre-release chatter was about whether Marvel Studios overall was in a creative and commercial slump and/or whether audiences would need to have seen “WandaVision,” “Ms. Marvel” or “Secret Invasion” to understand the film. That the answer to the second question is “Nope,” “Can’t hurt but no” and “This movie doesn’t remotely reference the events of the summer of 2023 Disney+ series” didn’t stop the dreaded online discourse.
Regardless of the broader reasons for the downturn (Marvel fatigue, an inability to properly promote, not just calling it “Captain Marvel 2,” mixed reviews, etc.), the Walt Disney Company is probably looking at an opening weekend closer to $45 million than $55 million. That would be an opening weekend comedown on par with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” compared to “Alice in Wonderland.” That sequel earned $299 million compared to its $1.025 billion-grossing predecessor. A similar downturn from the $1.128 billion total for “Captain Marvel” would give “The Marvels” a worldwide finish of $329 million.
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