From Marvel Studios and Disney, the superhero tentpole opened to an estimated $47 million at the domestic box office to rank as the worst start in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also came in behind expectations overseas, where it launched with $63.3 million from 51 material markets for a global start of $110.3 million against a hefty production budget north of $250 million.
The Marvels marks a new low for Kevin Feige‘s Marvel Studio and adds fuel to the theory that superhero fatigue is a real thing as fanboys grow weary of a glut of titles and are hence far less forgiving. Marvel has been unrivaled in its success for years, with its movies collecting more than $30 billion in grosses at the worldwide box office.
Until now, rival DC was the superhero studio that endured the biggest ups and downs, with a good number of its films opening to $50 million or less (in comparison, many MCU releases started with $100 million or more domestically). This summer, DC’s The Flash debuted to a dismal $55 million domestically on its way to topping out at a paltry $270.6 million globally.
Word of mouth is killing The Marvels, which is only the third MCU title to receive a B CinemaScore from audiences after Eternals and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania. The vast majority of MCU releases have earned some variation of an A. Its Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score of 62 percent is likewise on the lower end. Males made up the majority of ticket buyers, or 61 percent, while 45 percent of the grosses came from Imax and other premium large-format screens.
The 33rd installment in the MCU 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).
Before now, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk held 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 belonged to Marvel/Disney’s Ant-Man, which started with $57.2 million domestically in 2015.
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 for a superhero film in that it stars three female leads. 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 turned 34 on Nov. 8). Marvel has taken pride in fostering such indie directors as Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi and Chloé Zhao.
The cast of The Marvels wasn’t able to do any promotion or publicity because of the SAG-AFTRA strike, although Larson and her co-stars sprung into action Thursday after the strike ended. Larson appeared on The Tonight Show on Friday, while she and her co-stars surprised fans at various screenings of the movie in New York City opening weekend.
Elsewhere, Universal and Blumhouse’s horror sensation Five Nights at Freddy’s held at No. 2 with $9 million from 3,624 theaters for a domestic total of $127.2 million through its third weekend (it’s the top-grossing horror title of 2023 to date). It is also scaring up especially huge business overseas, where it earned another $15.4 million for a foreign tally of $124.7 million and $251.9 million globally.
AMC Theaters’ Taylor Swift: Eras Tour followed at No. 3 in North America with an estimated $6 million from 2,848 locations for a domestic total of nearly $173 million.
The specialty box office was in full swing as Oscar season continues to heat up, led by Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple Original Films/Paramount), which grossed another $4.7 million from 3,357 theaters for a domestic tally of $60 million. The pic placed No. 4.
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla (A24) moved up to No. 5 in its third weekend with $4.8 million as it expanded into 2,361 theaters for a domestic cume of $12.7 million.
Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers (Focus Features) followed at No. 6 with $3.2 million as it expanded into 778 cinemas for an early domestic total of $4.3 million.
Sony and Affirm’s faith-based Journey to Bethlehem opened at No. 7 with $2.4 million from 2,002 cinemas.
More to come.
Nov. 12, 7:59 a.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.
This story was originally published on Nov. 12 at 8:10 a.m.