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Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania makes a perfect candidate for the half-full/half-empty brand of reporting on its release. In terms of its quality, critics have decidedly spoken that this may be one of the weakest efforts their cinematic universe has put out. Yet, many of them admit that Jonathan Majors promises great potential as a villain to be reckoned with in future chapters. Its opening weekend is easily the biggest of 2023 and the highest of the Ant-Man films, but it’s also only February, and it came in below its early tracking projections. In either case, bad ink is here and could be to stay.
Prior to this week there was only one film in the MCU to receive a Rotten score on the Tomatometer, namely Chloe Zhao’s Eternals. That being said, it is still at 47% but is not as much an outlier anymore since Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania currently sits at the same 47% with critics. Even last year’s widely divisive Thor: Love and Thunder still managed a Fresh 64% on the Tomatometer. Audiences also currently are not loving on Quantumania, as it became one of just five MCU films to not receive at least an A- from those polled by Cinemascore. In fact, it received the same grade as Eternals (B), the lowest for any of the MCU films. Last year’s Doctor Strange and Thor films both received a B+. Quantumania does not have a lot of support right now, and it certainly won’t be in the same league financially as last year’s lesser-received entries. At least, not domestically.
Quantumania began its run on Thursday with $17.5 million, which was $6 million higher than Ant-Man and the Wasp and the 12th best “preview” start for an MCU film. By the end of the weekend its estimates for a $104 million start place it 17th among the MCU films. Both of the previous Ant-Man films were among the lowest-grossing ones in the overall series, pre-pandemic, and yet with worldwide grosses of $519 million and $622 million, both were still in profit. Through Monday, Quantumania is estimated to be over $357 million globally. Now, Quantumania’s predecessor cost a reported $195 million. Spider-Man: No Way Home was the last film to come in with a budget lower than $200 million back in 2019. The question will be if Marvel’s superfans are kinder to this than critics have been.
Amongst the 30 previous films of the MCU, only three of them multiplied their opening weekend by a factor of three. The original Ant-Man was one of those, but that film also benefitted from earning the lowest opening of the MCU ($57.2 million) for a film without Edward Norton. Eternals finished with $164 million, a multiple of 2.31 after a start of $71 million. The lowest multiple of the MCU belongs to last year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and that was after having the seventh best opening. It would take quite the backlash for Quantumania to not surpass the second film’s $216.6 million and produce quite the half-empty response from critics, but a healthy worldwide haul could fill the glass just enough to keep the red out of MCU’s ledger.
Open Road Films has had mighty struggles over the years. After rebranding as Global Road, only to reverse course to the original name and then enter into a partnership with Briarcliff Entertainment to help distribute their films, they just have not been able to establish public interest in their releases. Their Best Picture winner back in 2015 (Spotlight) is their third highest grossing film ($44.4 million) after The Nut Job ($64.2 million) and The Grey ($51.5 million). Since the release of those two films, the company has not had a film open to $10 million since 2014 (Nightcrawler) and not had one open to $5 million since Show Dogs in 2018.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, they have been mostly in the Liam Neeson business, releasing Honest Thief ($14.1 million total), The Marksman ($15.5 million), and Memory ($7.3 million), all of which opened between $3-4 million. That continued this weekend with Neil Jordan’s Marlowe, which opened to just $1.9 million. The film opened on Wednesday and could not even clear a million in its first two days. With a per-theater average of $837, it ranks as the worst so far of 2023 in films launched in over 1,000 venues. Marlowe is in 2,281 theaters.
James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water dropped just 15% from last week to $6.1 million, bringing its total to $657 million through Sunday. That is good enough for ninth place all-time on the domestic chart, passing Jurassic World’s $653.4 million. Ultimately it should wind up in the seven slot ahead of Avengers: Infinity War, but Cameron’s own Titanic is making Water chase it as it continues to make money in its re-release. The 1997 romance’s box office total is now at $672 million, but with a 65% drop to $2.2 million this weekend it will probably take another re-release for it to surpass Infinity War again on the all-time chart. On the worldwide chase, Titanic stands at fourth with $2.243 billion and Avatar: The Way of Water has just pulled ahead to third with $2.244 billion, where it will settle.
In “too little, too late” news, the No. 1 film from a week ago, fell back to third place (and then fourth place with the holiday) as Magic Mike’s Last Dance got an increase to its 1,500 theater count on Valentine’s Day, grossing $1.93 million that day in 2,176 venues. This weekend it more than doubled last week’s count (3,034) but fell back 35% to $5.4 million. That brings its total to just under $18 million, just a couple million more than what Magic Mike XXL made in its first two days of release back in summer 2015. That is still more money than it would have seen just going to HBO MAX on day one, but if Warner Bros. had a little more faith in the brand that had grossed nearly $180 million domestic, Last Dance may have garnered a lot more singles.
Last week, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish was just holding on to a spot in the top five, continuing an impressive eight-week run in that position. This week it moved back up to fourth place with $5.2 million, a 5.7% drop over business from last week. Plus, with the Monday holiday, it is estimated to be in third place with $6.9 million. Speaking of multiples, the animated film now has the third-best ever (13.2+) for a December opening in over 2,000 theaters behind only Titanic (20.97) and The Greatest Showman (19.79). It has officially passed Sing 2’s final gross from the previous year and has all but solidified our estimates that it was headed for over $180 million. Is $190 million possible? At present time it is about $10 million off the pace of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which did just finish over that total. Spidey’s ninth weekend was a 33% drop to $3 million (in ninth place). The Last Wish more than doubled that total and should extend its run to at least 11 weeks in the top five until the weekend of Mar. 10. Do not rule it out.
Checking in on 80 for Brady, which we pegged last week to make between $35-45 million, the film grossed $3.6 million over the weekend. That brings its total to $32.2 million, keeping it just behind Death on the Nile’s 17-day gross of $32.7 million, which had a $4.4 million third weekend. Nile finished with $45.6 million and Brady does appear ready to finish somewhere between $40-45 million. Brady’s competitor from three weeks ago, Knock At The Cabin, won another battle but definitely not the war – at least in gross head-to-head – as it made $3.9 million over the weekend, bringing its total to just over $30 million and its global total to almost $48 million. The film only needs about another $12 million to keep the director’s profit streak alive. 80 for Brady, meanwhile, still needs to find another $50 million to cover its costs. Sony has a similar issue with the budgets of its top 10 finishers. Missing, the follow-up to Searching, is going to pass $30 million and is well into the black with just a $7 million budget. A Man Called Otto has grossed twice as much but has done so trying to pay back a $50 million budget and still needs at least that to make it all back. At least theaters are getting a good portion of those films aimed at adults.
There’s a bear and its done cocaine. Yes, the moment we have waited for all our lives arrives next week when Cocaine Bear attacks theaters. Elizabeth Banks’ film is poised to continue Universal’s winning streak as of late. If Violent Night can make nearly $50 million and M3GAN can surpass $90 million, could we see this high-concept horror comedy get even higher? Its budget is more than those two other films combined, so its going to need nine digits if there are any hopes of a sequel. If coked-up bears aren’t your thing you can also look for Kelsey Grammar in Jesus Revolution. It’s also a true story about a group of teenage hippies having a spiritual awakening. There are, however, no reports of any cocaine being involved.
47% Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
76% Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
49% Magic Mike's Last Dance (2023)
95% Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
67% Knock at the Cabin (2023)
61% 80 for Brady (2023)
88% Titanic (1997)
22% Marlowe (2022)
88% Missing (2023)
69% A Man Called Otto (2022)
Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Marvel Studios