Maybe we spoke too soon in suggesting Disney move up The Marvels to the slot left vacant by Dune: Part Two last week. That would have given them the “comic book movies are dead” headlines a week earlier, albeit ironically still a bit premature. But the headlines in its second week may not have been so brutal. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here by burying the lede that the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe just had the series’ weakest opening to date. That is the headline. But please don’t stop there. Read further.
Leading the pack of movies in theaters this week is The Marvels, which ended up with $47 million. That is less than the first Ant-Man film in 2015 ($57.2 million) and even The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton in 2008 ($55.4 million). While the latter film ultimately resulted in a casting change and has the most miniscule connection to the greater MCU, it is still the lowest-grossing film in a 15-year journey. Black Widow and Eternals are the only post-Endgame films to gross lower than $200 million, and each could at least use the pandemic as an excuse, even if Chloe Zhao’s film has the second-lowest score (47%) with critics and is one of only two MCU films to be Rotten on the Tomatometer.
This year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania maintains the dubious crown on the worst-reviewed film of the lot at 46%. And despite some of the loudest voices out there on The Marvels, it is still treading water on the positive side at 62%. Let’s not get too crazy about that score, though, given it is the third-worst in the MCU, just below last year’s Thor: Love and Thunder (65%). But is The Marvels a near-final nail in the coffin in the appeal of comic book fare? While the grosses are more in line (and well below) the post-Endgame pandemic era releases, the last five MCU films still all opened to over $100 million, with four grossing over $340 million and two reaching over $400 million.
Captain Marvel 2 does not have much of an excuse in regards to name recognition or sequelizing, unless the mere title change to The Marvels made it seem like more of a stand-alone television crossover than a direct continuation of Carol Danvers’ story. Only four of the MCU sequels (Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Spider-Man: Far From Home) failed to open to over $100 million. Two of those were nearly 10 years ago, and Ant-Man and the Wasp still had a $75 million start and a $216 million finish. Remember, DC’s The Flash could not even double its opening this summer from $55 million to $108 million. The Marvels is not even in the top 30 November openings of all time, and it has The Hunger Games prequel and another Trolls sequel to knock it back to third place next week (maybe even fourth if horror fans show up for Thanksgiving).
Coming full circle, that drop next week could be brutal. Garnering the same “B” Cinemascore that Quantumania and Eternals received, the minority polled at movie theaters is in rare lockstep with the vast critical consensus, as every other MCU film received at least a “B+.” Apart from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, whose best competition in weekend two was Book Club: The Next Chapter, the MCU had six straight films drop more than 60%. Forgetting about the day-and-date pandemic streamers – Wonder Woman 1984 and The Suicide Squad – The Marvels had the worst drop for a follow-up film opening to over $100 million, beating Alice Through the Looking Glass, which had a $26.8 million start after Alice In Wonderland’s $116.1 million. If things progress negatively, it will likely also have one of the worst falls for a sequel from the original’s gross ever. All that being said, though, does anyone doubt the likely success of Deadpool 3 next July?
Could The Marvels possibly get outgrossed by Five Nights at Freddy’s? That question was posed to me earlier in the week, and looking at it now, it is legitimately possible. Freddy’s had an all-timer drop last week after its $80 million opening, and its third weekend fell 53% down to $9 million. The best comparison to chart out Freddy’s path is actually The Matrix Revolutions, which fell to $7 million in its third weekend. Freddy’s is even ahead of that film’s pace by $7 million. Therefore, if we place the landing of this day-and-date streamer between $140-150 million, that seems like well enough to beat the sequel to a $400+ million grosser. The film has also surpassed $250 million worldwide.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour increased its lead over the pack, grossing $5.9 million this weekend. That brings its unique 20-day release to $172.5 million. Still, that $200 million milestone could be hard for any release from the rest of the year to match; we can see that no film to gross over $159 million in its first 19 days of release has ever failed to reach that. While this is certainly a unique situation, with its vacation days and all during the week, we can look at the top film to not reach the mark in its vicinity, Men In Black II, which had $158.1 million after 19 days and a $4.8 million fourth weekend. It finished with $190 million. So look ahead, Swifties, because after one more weekend and the Thanksgiving holiday, you can ultimately make $200 million happen. Globally it is over $240 million.
The Exorcist: Believer is about to cross $65 million this week after grossing $1.1 million. That will make it the 30th film of 2023 to cross that threshold. Only 29 movies were able to in 2022, up from just 19 in 2021. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is looking to join that list as well and appears on the verge of achieving it. Another small drop to $4.6 million this weekend has brought its total to nearly $60 million. The firefighter drama Ladder 49 had $61.3 million in its first 24 days after a fourth weekend of $5.3 million and ultimately finished with over $74 million. Solid legs going forward could get Flower Moon in the vicinity of that number. That could also make it the only release this fall season in over 3,000 theaters to gross three times its opening weekend. While the next closest to achieving that is Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting In Venice (though it likely won’t get further than a 2.97 multiple), Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie may still have an outside chance. With $1.7 million this weekend, bringing its total to $64.5 million, it would just need to squeeze out another $4 million to multiply its opening by three.
A24 expanded its release of Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla into 2,361 theaters for its third weekend, and it had a nice payoff, grossing $4.7 million and raising its total to $12.7 million. That puts it in position to pass Marie Antoinette ($15.9 million) as the second highest-grossing film of Coppola’s directorial career. It now also ranks 18th on A24’s all-time list and only needs a little more than $8 million more to make their top 10. Four of the films on that list went wide from the get-go, but this is the first time the studio has expanded a limited release of theirs this quickly and this wide. It took Uncut Gems, Bodies Bodies Bodies, and Beau is Afraid until their fourth weekend to play in over 2,000 theaters. Priscilla will soon pass Dumb Money to become the second most successful (initial) limited release of the year, behind only Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, which grossed over $26 million — another number to shoot for.
A24 did this on the same weekend that they are platforming Dream Scenario with Nicolas Cage. The film is currently Certified Fresh and grossed a decent $216,000 in just six locations. It will be expanding in the coming weeks after an opening number that is a little better than the six-theater launch of Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, which Focus expanded into 778 theaters for its third weekend, resulting in $3.2 million. The comedy with Paul Giamatti also began in six theaters two weeks ago and earned $211,093. Back in the day, Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins with Liam Neeson expanded to 748 theaters in its third frame and grossed just $2.4 million, ultimately finishing with over $11 million. Payne has not had a film gross under $15 million since his second film, Election, back in 1999. Last week’s limited release of Radical expanded from 419 to 534 theaters and grossed another $1.75 million, bringing its total to over $5 million.
Finally, Not all faith-based movies are created the same, and Sony’s Journey to Bethlehem opened to $2.4 million in 2,002 theaters. The film, featuring Antonio Banderas as King Herod the beheader, opened to less than Angel Studios’ heaven documentary, After Death, a few weeks ago. That film made $807,000 in its third weekend to bring its total close to $11 million.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Marvel Studios