Brie Larson stars at Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel in Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels.”
“The Marvels” didn’t go higher, further or faster during its opening weekend in theaters.
The latest entrant in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hauled in an estimated $47 million domestically over its debut weekend, the lowest in the 30-plus-film franchise’s history.
Initial predictions saw the film opening at between $75 million and $80 million domestically, but those figures shrunk to a range between $60 million and $65 million ahead of Friday’s opening.
Internationally, “The Marvels” garnered $63.3 million in ticket sales, bringing its global haul to $110.3 million.
Lowest-grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe openings
- “The Marvels” (2023) — $47 million
- “The Incredible Hulk” (2008) — $55.4 million
- “Ant-Man” (2015) — $57.2 million
- “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) — $65.1 million
- “Thor” (2011) — $65.7 million
- “The Eternals” (2021) — $71.3 million
“Despite posting the lowest domestic debut for the MCU, ‘The Marvels’ proved once again the importance of the international marketplace for the Marvel brand,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “The film will now rely on Thanksgiving holiday corridor moviegoing to help move the big budget superhero film closer to profitability and help to determine the film’s ultimate success at the box office. “
While critics were lukewarm on “The Marvels,” giving the flick a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences were more receptive with an 85% score. Still, Disney had an uphill battle drawing moviegoers to theaters for its 33rd MCU film, which the company likely understood. CEO Bob Iger has already said this year that the studio would scale back its Marvel slate.
After the ‘Endgame’
After 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” which wrapped up storylines and arcs for popular characters like Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Marvel Studios’ theatrical and streaming content has been hit-or-miss with audiences. It has also had a difficult time marketing its new projects to audiences, as it seeks to hit nostalgic notes but also push its storytelling forward.
“Marvel has simply set a very high standard for themselves,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “When a new film or series is released, they have more pressure to stand on their own while also pushing the universe forward.”
Not to mention, the studio inundated Disney+ with series in an effort to pad its platform, making some fans feel like they had to slog through hours of stories in order to understand what was happening in the films.
“Expanding the MCU brand past the goldilocks zone of balanced exposure without feeling like homework to the casual audience has created a challenge for the franchise to begin correcting for,” Robbins said.
That is perhaps why “The Marvels” landed the second-lowest opening day for a MCU film, securing just $21.5 million on Friday. This figure includes $6.6 million from Thursday night previews. The only film to snare fewer ticket sales on its first day in domestic theaters was 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” which was the second-ever MCU film after “Iron Man” became a surprise smash earlier that year.
Robbins was quick to underscore that this box office stumble doesn’t mean that audiences are ready to give up on the MCU. After all, the franchise has generated nearly $30 billion since 2008.
“In fact, this underwhelming box office performance occurs at the same time ‘Loki’s’ second season is, ironically, drawing praise as one of the few Disney+ Marvel series to resonate positively with a big part of the fan base,” he said.
To be sure, a $47 million opening, is not bad for any film, but in comparison to the high highs that Marvel has achieved in the last decade, it is viewed as a disappointment. It could also act as a catalyst for leadership at the studio to rethink its future release plans.
Already, Iger has said he is looking at the company’s overall theatrical and streaming strategy to pare down how much content it makes.
“At the time the pandemic hit, we were leaning into a huge increase in how much we were making,” Iger said during Disney’s earnings call last week. “And I’ve always felt that quantity can be actually a negative when it comes to quality, and I think that’s exactly what happened. We lost some focus.”
Additionally, Marvel Studios is facing an uphill battle with actor Jonathan Majors, whom it chose to take on the role of Kang, the next big bad in the MCU. Majors is embroiled in legal troubles stemming from allegations of assault and abuse.
“If any IP has the depth and capability to do that, it’s Marvel under the leadership of Kevin Feige and his teams,” said Robbins. This is certainly a crossroads moment from a creative and business standpoint. Perhaps the relative slowdown in Marvel content next year will provide a healthy and necessary buffer for the studio, for Disney, and for audiences.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.