By Jake Coyle – AP Film Writer
Since 2008’s “Iron Man,” the Marvel machine has been one of the most unstoppable forces in box-office history. Now, though, that aura of invincibility is showing signs of wear and tear. The superhero factory hit a new low with the weekend launch of “The Marvels,” which opened with just $47 million, according to studio estimates.
The 33rd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a sequel to the 2019 Brie Larson-led “Captain Marvel,” managed less than one-third of the $153.4 million its predecessor launched with before ultimately taking in $1.13 billion worldwide.
Sequels, especially in Marvel Land, aren’t supposed to fall off a cliff. Yet “The Marvels” debuted with more than $100 million less than “Captain Marvel” opened with — something no sequel before has ever done. David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Research Entertainment, called it “an unprecedented Marvel box-office collapse.”
The previous low for a Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel movie was “Ant-Man,” which bowed with $57.2 million in 2015. Otherwise, you have to go outside the Disney MCU to find such a slow start for a Marvel movie — releases like Universal’s “The Incredible Hulk” with $55.4 million in 2008, Sony’s “Morbius” with $39 million in 2022, or 20th Century Fox’s “Fantastic Four” reboot with $25.6 million in 2015.
But “The Marvels” was a $200 million-plus sequel to a billion-dollar blockbuster. It was also an exceptional Marvel release in numerous ways. Reviews weren’t strong (62% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and neither was audience reaction. “The Marvels” is only the third MCU release to receive a “B” CinemaScore from moviegoers, following “Eternals” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania.”
“The Marvels,” which added $63.3 million in overseas ticket sales, may go down as a turning point in the MCU. Over the years, the franchise has collected $33 billion globally — a point Disney noted in reporting its grosses.
But with movie screens and streaming platforms increasingly crowded with superhero films and series, some analysts have detected a new fatigue setting in for audiences. Disney chief executive Bob Iger himself has spoken about possible oversaturation for Marvel.
“Over the last three and a half years, the growth of the genre has stopped,” Gross wrote.
Either way, something is shifting for superheroes. The box-office crown this year appears assured to go to “Barbie,” the year’s biggest smash with more than $1.4 billion worldwide for Warner Bros.