Superhero sequel stumbles in opening weekend – Variety

Shazam was not the magic word in the weekend checkout.

“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” opened to No. 1 in North America, but the Warner Bros. and DC Comics fell short of expectations with its disappointing $30.5 million debut in 4,071 theaters. Heading into the weekend, the film was expected to gross $35 million to $40 million, which was already less than spectacular as it cost more than $110 million to make and another $100 million more to market .

It’s a substantial drop from 2019’s “Shazam,” the first comic book starring Zachary Levi’s quirky hero, which opened to $53.5 million and ended with $140 million domestically and $366 million worldwide. It’s also one of the worst starts in the DC Cinematic Universe, aside from pandemic-era releases like “Wonder Woman 1984” ($16.7 million) and “The Suicide Squad” ($26 million), both of which were released simultaneously on HBO Max were opened.

At the international box office, “Shazam 2” added $35 million from 77 markets for a dismal worldwide start of $65.5 million.

Reviews and word of mouth may not help Shazam: Fury of the Gods for the next week. It received a “B+” CinemaScore, lower than the first film’s “A” grade. And it has a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, a dramatic drop from the original’s 90% average. David F. Sandberg returned to direct “Fury of the Gods,” which centers on Levi’s Billy Batson and his foster siblings – all of whom turn into superheroes when they yell “Shazam!” – as they team up to fight the Daughters of Atlas, who wield a weapon capable of destroying the world. Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren star together in the film.

“Fury of the Gods” is also a victim of the big reset in DC to some degree. It’s the first movie to be released since James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the superhero universe and took it in a whole new direction. While the producers have been careful not to absolutely rule out the return of an established DC hero (other than Henry Cavill as Superman), fans can see the writing on the wall.

At one point, comic book tentpoles were untouchable at the box office. But ‘Shazam 2’ and Disney’s ill-received Marvel sequel ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ are starting to show cracks, at least when it comes to sub-par adventures. “Ant Man 3” impressed with its mighty $106 million opening weekend in February, but it has crumbled in subsequent weeks and will almost certainly end up as the lowest-grossing installment in the trilogy, despite scoring the biggest start. DC’s earlier standalone adventure “Black Adam”, directed by Dwayne Johnson, also greatly disappointed in its theatrical run, grossing $392 million worldwide on its budget of over $200 million.

That’s not to say superhero fatigue has taken over — and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” seem to dominate the summer box office — but it points to a future where studios no longer being able to just release a mega-budgeted comic book adaptation into theaters with the expectation it will easily gross at least $500 million worldwide.

“So far [in 2023], ‘Ant-Man’ slowed after an excellent start, and ‘Shazam’ is falling,” said David A. Gross, who heads the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. “Neither film found an original, creative way forward; neither increased their range.

Elsewhere at the box office, Paramount’s thriller “Scream VI” dropped to second place with $17.5 million from 3,676 North American theaters. Those ticket sales, down 61% from its stellar $41 million debut, bring the sequel’s domestic tally to $76 million after two weeks on the big screen. The horror film added another $40 million internationally, bringing its worldwide total to $116 million.

Michael B. Jordan’s sports drama “Creed III” took third place with $15.3 million from 3,477 venues, down just 44% from the previous weekend. After three weeks of release, the film has grossed a whopping $127.7 million. The third ‘Creed’ film has already surpassed its predecessors as the first film ended up with $109 million and the sequel grossed $115 million.

Sony’s prehistoric sci-fi thriller “65” landed at No. 4 with $5.8 million from 3,405 cinemas, a 54% drop from its debut. The movie, starring Adam Driver, has grossed $22.4 million so far, which isn’t a great result considering its $45 million budget.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” rounded out the top five with $4.1 million from 2,650 cinemas in its fifth weekend of release. So far it has grossed $205 million in North America, above the original “Ant-Man” ($180 million) and behind the 2018 sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp” ($216 million). But at $462 million worldwide, ticket sales for “Ant-Man 3” are dramatically below the first movie at $519 million and the follow-up at $622 million.

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