What a difference four years makes. When “Captain Marvel” hit theaters in March 2019, it landed what was then the seventh-highest domestic opening weekend across Marvel Cinematic Universe entries with $153 million — a colossal figure that only one 2023 release, “Barbie,” has exceeded. Now, several superhero entries later, its new sequel “The Marvels” likely won’t be able to reach even a third of its predecessor’s debut.
The comic book film landed the second-lowest opening day gross ever across the 32 features in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, earning $21.5 million from 4,030 venues. That includes $6.6 million in previews. It barely surpassed 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” which holds the record for the MCU’s lowest domestic opening day at $21.46 million, and falls behind series-starter “Ant-Man” ($22.6 million), not adjusted for inflation. If “The Marvels” doesn’t pick up the pace, it will trail behind the opening weekend grosses of both those films ($55.4 million and $55.7 million, respectively) to secure a franchise-worst debut.
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Those are some concerning numbers for Marvel Studios. The once bulletproof production banner has earned nearly $30 billion at the box office since 2008, but has faced a downtrend in theatrical returns and various behind-the-scenes headaches in recent years. Even so, “The Marvels” hitting a superlatively low debut would come as an especially tough sting, given Marvel still scored two sizable openings from “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ($106 million) and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ($118 million) earlier this year. And there’s also the hefty $220 million production price tag to account for on “The Marvels.”
Reviews for the superhero entry have been pretty lukewarm, especially compared to its 2019 predecessor. And audiences aren’t exactly feeling enthused either, as indicated by the “B” grade through research firm Cinema Score. It’s not a disastrous reception, but it continues an alarming downtrend for Marvel entries, which have often tested higher among early moviegoers.
Nia DaCosta (“Candyman”) took over directing duties for “The Marvels.” The action-adventure spotlights a team-up of heroines, with Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel crossing over after debuting in separate Marvel projects over recent years.
Also opening this weekend, Sony is putting out “Journey to Bethlehem,” a Christmas musical that takes it back, way back to the nativity of Jesus Christ. The Affirm Films production is projecting $2.835 million from 2,002 locations — debuting outside the top five.
Beyond Marvel, it’s shaping up to be yet another quiet weekend at the box office. Universal and Blumhouse’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” will nab silver, despite its availability on streaming service Peacock. The adaptation of the popular horror video game series is projecting another sizable tumble of 53% in its third weekend, adding $9 million to its domestic total.
Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” concert film grossed $1.9 million on Friday from 2,848 venues, and is expected to earn $6.2 million in its fifth weekend of release. The concert film should surpass a $172 million domestic gross through the end of the three-day frame, ranking it among the top 12 North American releases of the year.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is headed for fourth place, earning $1.5 million on Friday. Martin Scorsese’s epic is projecting $5 million in its fourth weekend of release, bringing its domestic total to $60 million — not close to matching its massive $200 million production budget.
“Priscilla” looks to round out the top five with competitors projecting a three-day gross of $4.5 million from 2,361 theaters. That’d be a welcome hold for the Sofia Coppola film, not far off from its $5 million wide debut last weekend. The well-reviewed biopic should push beyond a $12 million domestic total through Sunday.
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