It’s been an uphill battle for the MCU throughout the last few years. Negative consent has started arousing a certain perception throughout 2023 which has been quite damaging overall with only a few releases making bank and the blockbuster releases burning up before they even got a chance. Continuing that trend is Marvel Studios’ latest The Marvels.
The film has pulled in $21.5M on its Friday and is likely heading to a weekend gross of $47M to $52M. With a B CinemaScore, it likely is looking at a below $50M. That is slightly higher than the lowest estimate from Box Office Pro, which was at around $45M but there are a lot of different factors at play here (some even believed it would be as low as $35M as the tracking on this film was quite chaotic in the last few weeks).
Deadline makes a strong case that this isn’t really the fatigue discussion, as people will watch a film they believe is going to be great; Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania still had a grand opening all things considered but lost its legs quickly but it remains in the Top 10 for 2023 (which says a lot about the year). And there’s the entire discussion surrounding Disney’s strong pre-pandemic push to promote its streaming service by milking its cash cow as dry as it could. The pandemic certainly didn’t help.
In addition, this release isn’t like Captain Marvel which dropped between two of the biggest Avengers releases of the years. I do believe that the assessment of Killers of the Flower Moon’s low box office shouldn’t still be assessed if $200M is truly worth to “advertise” a film on a streaming service while making an additional buck, especially given any MCU film also benefited from a strong streaming surge once available. So, the discussion in those comparisons can be twisted however one would want depending on the result one is looking for, as what is or isn’t successful on streaming is still the biggest question mark in the industry.
It’s a shame though to see the film open this low given the fun it provides. Most are pointing to a weak word-of-mouth with the B rating but one could wonder if Five Nights at Freddy’s A- rating is also bloated by fans making sure they check out the first installment that had a very impressive $80M opening but quickly floundered the week after. Plus, that film unlike The Marvels didn’t really require much promotion from its cast given it’s a first-time adaptation of a very young audience.
There’s also the depressing aspect of the current climate that the film releases. Brie Larson and the “Captain Marvel” brand has been hounded ever since that film released and was the butt of many people’s jokes online. So, a negative reception existed, and with a seemingly lack of advertising push in its key demographics but didn’t go out of its way to reach the other side to attract the actual core demographic of this film. Though, the anti-Disney and anti-Marvel sentiment throughout the year also definitely is showing its fangs.
Is it the end of Marvel? Probably not as next year’s release schedule has been drastically cut down and likely something that was going to happen eventually anyway. One thing is for sure: Marvel Studios is going to be looking internally to restructure their approach which already started with Marvel Spotlight to create a bigger distinction between releases (or more likely their Disney+ outings).
What is a bit bizarre is the current “downward trend” some are pointing out like Variety, who released an article that actually got debunked by quite a few in the past few weeks but also highlights the way MCU is being discussed. The only “soft” spot it had was during the pandemic when it made more money than most releases and this is the first below $100M opening in a long time for the brand. The bigger question is this going to be a one-time low before a swing back up or just the baseline for future entries needing lower budgets.