Before The Marvels premiered on November 10th, I figured the bleak projections would end up being an overreaction. After all, Pixar’s Elemental looked like a flop on its opening weekend but went on to gross $500 million as word of mouth spread. I was even more confident after seeing The Marvels on opening weekend. It was fun, clever, and far more intelligible than most recent Marvel movies. But I was wrong. The Marvels was dead on arrival.
As reported by Variety, ticket sales for The Marvels dropped by 78% over the movie’s second weekend in theaters. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this is also the biggest second-weekend drop in the history of the MCU. The Marvels has already broken multiple ignominious records and will likely break more in the coming weeks.
One of the countless impressive achievements of Marvel’s 15-year run since 2008 is that it has been able to withstand the occasional stinker. Thor: The Dark World was the worst-rated Marvel movie of the Infinity Saga, but it didn’t stop audiences from rushing out to see an unfamiliar team of heroes in Guardians of the Galaxy less than a year later.
Marvel Studios always bounces back. At least, it did, but the trend lines are more worrying than ever right now. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Guardians Vol. 3 each made $800 million. Meanwhile, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels might not even gross $800 million combined by the time The Marvels leaves theaters.
Up until Avengers: Endgame, Marvel was unstoppable. Not every movie made a billion dollars, but making a profit was never in question. That’s no longer the case. Even more troublesome is the fact that, as noted above, The Marvels is good! It’s not the most significant story that Marvel Studios has ever told, and it’s clear that some vital connective tissue was excised in the editing room, but Iman Vellani shines as Ms. Marvel, some of the fight scenes are wildly creative and kinetic, and the teases at the end of the movie should have fans cheering.
None of that was even close to enough to save the movie from box office misery.
Marvel can only play the hits so many times. Despite all the doom and gloom, Deadpool 3 will almost certainly crack $1 billion when it hits theaters next July. That has far more to do with the success of the previous two movies than it does with the MCU’s pull, though. But what does the future of the MCU look like beyond that surefire hit?
Deadpool 3 will be the only Marvel movie to hit theaters in 2024. Then in 2025 we get a Captain America movie without Chris Evans, a Fantastic Four reboot, an anti-hero team-up movie called Thunderbolts, and Blade, which star Mahershala Ali nearly walked away from.
2026 brings with it Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (which will likely be retitled and might even get canned), and The Multiverse Saga ends in 2027 with Avengers: Secret Wars.
While there are sure to be cameos and surprising revivals in the Avengers movie, Marvel won’t be able to bank on the MCU’s original stars going forward. Even with the mediocre reviews, the preposterously-titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder found box office success with marketable superstars in roles that fans care deeply about. As for Eternals? The Marvels? Ant-Man 3 with Paul Rudd? Not so much.
Don’t forget that Captain Marvel made over $1.1 billion worldwide in 2019. The Marvels is going to struggle to hit $200 million. If a sequel to a popular movie can’t even make a fifth of what the original did, what chance do those other movies have?