The once superheroic Marvel Studios are now simply mortal.
For 15 years, Marvel delivered one hit movie after another — 32 in all, with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which grossed $846 million in May, the most recent. Sure, there were wobbles. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” grossed $106 million in February and grossed $476 million by the end of its run. However, even Marvel’s minor blockbusters were still blockbusters.
But the boutique studio stumbled badly over the weekend, with “The Marvels,” a sequel that cost approximately $300 million to produce and market and reached $47 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada, the lowest figure ever reached for a Marvel premiere. “This release is an unprecedented box office collapse for Marvel,” said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on ticket sales.
Until now, “The Incredible Hulk,” released in 2008, was the studio’s worst debut: with $79 million in the United States and Canada, after adjusting for inflation. “The Marvels” is a sequel to “Captain Marvel,” which generated $153 million in opening weekend ticket sales in domestic theaters in 2019.
“The Marvels,” about a trio of female superheroes whose powers intertwine, grossed an additional $63.3 million overseas. Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani play the lead roles, with Ms. Parris and Vellani reprising characters they originated in the Disney+ series. “The Marvels” was directed by Nia DaCosta, the first black woman to supervise a Marvel film.
Tony Chambers, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical distribution, acknowledged that the results were “disappointing” given Marvel’s “unparalleled batting average.” “There may have been a barrier to entry, as some people assumed they needed to have already watched the Disney+ shows to know what was happening in the movie,” he said.
However, Chambers added: “We know the film is resonating with female audiences. “We’re going to keep the pressure up and fight the good fight until Thanksgiving.”
No one in Hollywood expected “The Marvels” to do as well as “Captain Marvel,” which premiered between two mega-hits, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” But Disney, earlier this fall, had expected “The Marvels” to reach at least $70 million in domestic ticket sales, an acceptable result.
To some extent, “The Marvels” was hurt by the actors’ strike, which prevented Larson and her castmates from participating in promotional events, at least until Wednesday, when the 118-day strike was resolved. Superhero fatigue probably played a role, too. Audiences have begun to become more demanding of these shows, with flops like “Blue Beetle” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”, both from DC Studios, as recent evidence.
“You’ve Seen This Movie 32 Times Before,” read the headline of the New York Times review of “The Marvels.”
Gross, the analyst, noted that “The Marvels” is the third superhero sequel with female characters to fail. The other two are “Wonder Woman: 1984,” which was affected by the pandemic, and “Birds of Prey,” starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. “Female-driven entertainment is enjoying extraordinary success right now, but audiences aren’t accepting these stories,” she said.
The main reason Marvel Studios fell to earth over the weekend likely has to do with its corporate owner, Disney, which has pressured Marvel to dramatically increase its output in recent years. Desperate to find content that could appeal to Disney+ streaming subscribers, Disney had Marvel begin producing television series, resulting in visuals of widely varying quality and a ton of stories that even some passionate fans, not to mention the occasional ones had difficulties. next time.
“I’ve always felt that quantity can be a really negative when it comes to quality,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said on an earnings conference call Wednesday. “And I think that’s exactly what happened. “We lost some concentration.”
Disney is backing down. There is only one Marvel Studios movie on the company’s release schedule for next year. (That would be “Deadpool 3,” coming in July.) On Thursday, Disney delayed three more Marvel movies: “Captain America: Brave New World,” “Blade” and “Thunderbolts,” which are already ready. to arrive in 2025.