Three weeks ago, The Marvels was tracking to open to $75 million-$80 million at the domestic box office. While not a huge sum for a title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was a respectable number.
Now, however, the female-fronted superhero pic may only clear $60 million-$65 million in what would mark one of the lowest starts ever for Kevin Feige’s storied Marvel Studios (and likely the lowest if adjusting for inflation). And at least one service, The Quorum, is predicting south of $60 million.
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The 33rd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a sequel to the 2019 Brie Larson-starrer Captain Marvel, which opened to $153.4 million in North America on its way to earning a massive $1.13 billion worldwide, not adjusted for inflation. That movie had a clear advantage in that it was teased in the post-credit scene of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, while its titular star was a player in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame (it was released between the two Marvel mega-blockbusters).
But those were different times. The cast of The Marvels wasn’t able to do any promotion or publicity because of the ongoing actors’ strike. Last week, when it appeared a settlement might be near, Marvel and Disney even made tentative plans to bring Larson and the cast to the movie’s premiere at the Sphere in Las Vegas, according to insiders.
Another challenge facing The Marvel’s is superhero fatigue. This summer, DC’s The Flash — which had been billed as a triumph by Warner Bros. leadership prior to its opening — debuted to a dismal $55 million domestically on its way to topping out at a paltry $270.6 million domestically. A major exception to this notion of fatigue was Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, directed by James Gunn, who now runs DC. The threequel debuted to $106 million domestically earlier this year on its way to grossing $845.6 million globally, just behind the second film ($863.7 million).
Interest in seeing The Marvels has fallen off steadily since tracking firms first started reporting their opening estimates, while advance ticket sales are on par with The Flash. That’s a nightmare scenario for any studio. Marvel and parent company Disney responded by tweaking the marketing campaign. In an unusual move, they issued a new trailer on the eve of the movie’s opening that emphasized its connection to the larger Avengers franchise and revealed Tessa Thompson’s fan favorite Thor character Valkyrie appears.
In the new movie, Larson is joined by Iman Vellani, the breakout star of the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, as well as Teyonah Parris as the grown-up version of Captain Marvel character Monica Rambeau. The actor made her Marvel debut with WandaVision, which counted The Marvels screenwriter Megan McDonnell among its writers.
The Marvels is unique in that it stars three female leads. And it was directed by Nia DaCosta, who is the first Black woman to direct a Marvel Studios movie, as well as the youngest director of an MCU film (DaCosta turns 34 on Nov. 8). Marvel has taken pride on fostering indie directors as Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi and Chloé Zhao.
To date, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk holds the record for the lowest domestic opening of any MCU title at $55.4 million, not adjusted for inflation (Marvel, which wasn’t owned by Disney at the time, partnered with Universal for Hulk).
The next lowest MCU opening belongs to Marvel/Disney’s Ant-Man, which started off with $57.2 million domestically in 2015.
Overseas, The Marvels is pacing to open to $60 million for a global start of $140 million, compared to nearly $190 million for Captain Marvel.
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