‘The Marvels’ melts down at box office marking new low
NEW YORK, USA (AP) — Since 2008’s Iron Man, the Marvel machine has been one of the most unstoppable forces in box office history. Now, though, that aura of invincibility is showing signs of wear and tear. The superhero factory hit a new low with the weekend launch of The Marvels, which opened with just US$47 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The 33rd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a sequel to the 2019 Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel, managed less than a third of the US$153.4 million its predecessor launched with before ultimately taking in US$1.13 billion worldwide.
Sequels, especially in Marvel Land, aren’t supposed to fall off a cliff. Yet, The Marvels debuted with more than US$100 million less than Captain Marvel opened with — something no sequel before has ever done. David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Research Entertainment, called it “an unprecedented Marvel box office collapse”.
The previous low for a Walt Disney Co-owned Marvel movie was Ant-Man, which bowed with US$57.2 million in 2015. Otherwise, you have to go outside the Disney MCU to find such a slow start for a Marvel movie — releases like Universal’s The Incredible Hulk with US$55.4 million in 2008, Sony’s Morbius with US$39 million in 2022, or 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot with US$25.6 million in 2015.
But The Marvels was a US$200 million-plus sequel to a billion-dollar blockbuster. It was also an exceptional Marvel release in numerous ways. The film, directed by Nia DaCosta, was the first MCU release directed by a black woman. It was also the rare Marvel movie led by three women — Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani.
Reviews weren’t strong (62 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and neither was audience reaction. The Marvels is only the third MCU release to receive a “B” CinemaScore from moviegoers, following Eternals and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania.
The Marvels, which added US$63.3 million in overseas ticket sales, may go down as a turning point in the MCU. Over the years, the franchise has collected US$33 billion globally — a point Disney noted in reporting its grosses Sunday.
But with movie screens and streaming platforms increasingly crowded with superhero films and series, some analysts have detected a new fatigue setting in for audiences.
Disney chief executive Bob Iger himself has spoken about possible oversaturation for Marvel.
“Over the last three and a half years, the growth of the genre has stopped,” Gross wrote in a newsletter Sunday.
Either way, something is shifting for superheroes. The box office crown this year appears assured to go to Barbie, the year’s biggest smash with more than US$1.4 billion worldwide for Warner Bros.
The actors strike also didn’t do The Marvels any favours. The cast of the film weren’t permitted to promote the film until the strike was called off late Wednesday evening when SAG-AFTRA and the studios reached agreement. Larson and company quickly jumped onto social media and made surprise appearances in cinemas. And Larson guested on The Tonight Show on Friday.