The Marvel Cinematic Universe has suffered another blow with the opening weekend of “The Marvels,” which earned just $47 million from 4,030 theaters to set a new record for the worst launch in the history of the 15-year superhero franchise.
The previous low for the MCU was set by “The Incredible Hulk,” a film that was just the second installment in the series and earned $55.4 million back in 2008 before inflation adjustment. A more recent and perhaps more damning comparison would be the recent DC superhero bomb “The Flash,” which opened to $55 million this past June and grossed just $270 million globally.
With $110 million grossed worldwide, “The Marvels” may not even be able to reach that mark, as audiences have given the film a B on CinemaScore and 3.5/5 from general audiences on PostTrak. That’s the same grade earned by “The Flash” and marks the fifth time in the last eight theatrical releases that an MCU film has failed to earn an A- or higher in the audience poll.
As seen this summer with blockbusters like “Fast X,” “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” tentpoles that don’t earn an A- or higher among audiences have frequently seen their box office numbers drop sharply in subsequent weekends. With Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” coming next weekend with a projected opening weekend of $60 million-plus, followed by a Thanksgiving weekend headlined by Disney’s “Wish,” “The Marvels” may find itself smothered by the competition to come.
This poor start can certainly be attributed in part to the recently ended SAG-AFTRA strike, which kept “The Marvels” stars Brie Larson, Teyonnah Parris and Iman Vellani away from the promotional circuit until the day the film was released in Thursday previews.
Larson did make an appearance on “The Tonight Show” on Friday to promote the film following the strike ending Wednesday night. She also made surprise appearances at preview screenings with Vellani, but it could never make up for the full promotional tour with Comic-Con appearances that they would have had in a non-strike timeline.
But beyond the strike, it’s also true that the streak of tepidly received films and streaming shows that Marvel Studios has released going back to “Eternals” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” have damaged the once bulletproof goodwill that fans had towards the MCU.
Marvel has had some undisputed success this year with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” winning over fans and earning $845.5 million at the global box office, but the struggles of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ($476 million worldwide) and the poor reception of Disney+’s “Secret Invasion” are among the other hits the franchise has recently suffered, making it less likely that audiences will go and see future installments unless there’s strong word-of-mouth.
It’s difficult to say where Marvel Studios will go from here, as it will be nearly eight months before it brings a new film to theaters due to strike-related production delays. With “Deadpool 3” moving to July 2024, next year will mark the first time since 2006 that a film based on Marvel comics won’t be released in theaters during the first weekend of May.
Outside of “Marvels,” the rest of the top 5 was filled by holdovers. Universal/Blumhouse’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” added $9 million in its third weekend of release. With $127 million grossed domestically, the video game adaptation is the highest-grossing horror film of the year despite its day-and-date release on Peacock.
AMC/Variance’s “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” has earned $5.9 million in its fifth weekend in theaters. While the concert film was guaranteed to run in theaters for at least four weekends, it has stayed on screens in 2,494 theaters past that mark and has now passed the domestic total of “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning” with $172.5 million grossed.
A24’s “Priscilla” is in fourth with $4.8 million in its third weekend, continuing to hold well with $12.7 million grossed so far. The biopic starring Callie Spaeny as Elvis Presley’s wife will continue to expand as Thanksgiving approaches.
Paramount/Apple’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” completes the top 5 with $4.6 million, giving the film a domestic total of just under $60 million. With a $200 million-plus budget footed by Apple, it has been difficult to appraise the box office fortunes of Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed historical drama, as Apple is more concerned with building Apple TV+’s reputation as a streamer with high artistic quality rather than theatrical dollars.
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