Lowest-Grossing MCU Movie in History



There’s nothing heroic about the final box office performance of “The Marvels.” The superhero sequel is officially the lowest-grossing installment in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After four weeks on the big screen, the comic book tentpole is running out of steam with $80 million in North America and $197 million globally. There would typically be optimism that attendance could rebound over the busy holiday season, but Disney apparently doesn’t expect that to be the case. The studio wrote on Sunday in a note to press, “With ‘The Marvels’ box office now winding down, we will stop weekend reporting of international/global grosses on this title.”

The film isn’t leaving theaters just yet, and the $220 million-plus budgeted tentpole is expected to play through New Year’s. However, this memo signals that it’s not expected to generate notable coinage during the rest of December. Over the weekend, “The Marvels” tumbled to 11th place on box office charts with just $2.4 million in its fourth outing.

“The Marvels” opened on Nov. 10 with $46 million domestically to land the worst debut in the MCU, the franchise’s rare misfire out of the gate. Things only got gloomier. Ticket sales cratered by 78% in its sophomore outing to cement another ignominious record: the biggest second-weekend drop of the series. Now, as the film nears the end of its theatrical run, box office revenues won’t top 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” ($264 million, not adjusted for inflation), which previously stood as the lowest-grossing entry.

This degree of disappointment is unusual because Marvel is the most commercially successful film franchise of all time, with $29.8 billion globally across 33 films. Moreover, the passionate MCU fanbase has turned out for less-embraced entries. This February’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Qunatumania” managed to generate $214 million domestically and $476 million worldwide even though the film was saddled with worse reviews than “The Marvels.”

Directed by Nia DaCosta, the action-adventure spotlights a trio of Spandexed heroes — Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel — who are tasked with saving the universe from forces that seek to destroy it. Reviews were mixed, but a bigger problem is that “The Marvels” ended up bearing the brunt of the audience’s burnout toward this ever-expanding franchise, one that spans the big and small screen. This year alone, Marvel has released two other movies and three Disney+ TV series.

“The Marvels” is also the first Marvel film to not cross the $100 million mark at the domestic box office. This means the sequel’s entire big screen run didn’t come close to matching the opening weekend of its predecessor, 2019’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). However, the original adventure with Larson’s Carol Danvers had extra momentum because of its prime release date between two of the biggest movies of all time, 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.”

Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has addressed the film’s poor theatrical performance, suggesting that pandemic-related production restrictions ended up plaguing the final result. “‘The Marvels’ was shot during COVID,” Iger recently said. “There wasn’t as much supervision on the set, so to speak, where we have executives [that are] really looking over what’s being done day after day after day.”

He added that the studio’s prior streak of billion-dollar behemoths has thrown off expectations about the potential of its movies. “We got to the point where if a film didn’t do a billion dollars in global box office, we were disappointed,” Iger said. “That’s an unbelievably high standard, and I think we have to get more realistic.”

Box office analysts do not believe that superhero fatigue has once and for all plagued the masses. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ($845 million) was a hit over the summer, and “Deadpool 3,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, is expected to be a smash in 2024. But “The Marvels” is the clearest indication that comic book fans will no longer reliably show up to theaters just because the Marvel logo appears in front of a movie.

Disney still has several MCU movies on the horizon, but it may have to retool the future of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The studio recently postponed “Captain America: A Brave New World,” “Thunderbolts” and “Blade” to 2025 because of strike-related production delays. That leaves “Deadpool 3” as the lone Marvel movie on next year’s calendar. Hopefully, the Merc with a Mouth can save the day — and the MCU.


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