Shazam was not the magic word at the weekend box office.
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” opened at number one in North America, but Warner Bros. and the DC Comics sequel fell short of expectations with a disappointing debut of $30.5 million from 4,071 theaters. Over the weekend, the film was expected to collect $35-40 million, which already wasn’t all that great considering it cost north of $110 million to make and another $100 million more from the market.
That’s a significant drop from 2019’s Shazam, starring Zachary Levi as the quirky hero, which opened to $53.5 million and finished 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 opened simultaneously on HBO Max.
At the international box office, “Shazam 2” added $35 million from 77 markets for a dismal global start of $65.5 million.
Reviews and words may not help “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” this coming week. It received a “B+” CinemaScore, down from the first film’s “A”. 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 transform into superheroes when they say “Shazam!” – when they team up to fight the Daughters of Atlas, who wield a weapon that can destroy the world. Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren star in the film.
“Fury of the Gods” is also somewhat a victim of DC’s big reset. It’s the first film to be released since James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the superhero universe and set it in a whole new direction. While producers have been careful not to completely rule out the return of any of the established DC heroes (except Henry Cavill as Superman), fans can see the writing on the wall.
At one point, comic book tentpoles were untouched at the box office. But “Shazam 2,” along with Disney’s ill-received Marvel sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” have begun to show cracks, at least when it comes to substandard adventures. “Ant Man 3” impressed with its massive $106 million opening weekend in February, but has crumbled in the following weeks and will almost certainly end up as the lowest-grossing installment of the trilogy despite its biggest start. DC’s previous standalone adventure “Black Adam,” helmed by Dwayne Johnson, also disappointed hugely in its theatrical run, grossing $392 million worldwide on a budget of over $200 million.
That doesn’t mean superhero fatigue has set in — and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” look set to dominate the summer box office — but it points to a future where studios can no longer release what any mega-budgeted comic book adaptation to theaters as expected. it will make at least $500 million worldwide easily.
So far (in 2023), ‘Ant-Man’ has slowed down after a great start, and ‘Shazam’ is on the decline,” says David A. Gross, head of film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Neither film found an original, creative path forward; neither lifted to his series.”
Elsewhere at the box office, Paramount’s thriller “Scream VI” slipped to second place with $17.5 million through 3,676 North American theaters. Ticket sales were down 61% from its staggering $41 million debut, bringing the sequel’s domestic tally to $76 million after two weeks on the big screen. The horror film has added $40 million internationally, bringing its total to $116 million worldwide.
Michael B. Jordan’s sports drama “Creed III” finished third 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. Already the third “Creed” film has earned its predecessor, as the first film ended with $109 million and the sequel with $115 million.
Sony’s prehistoric sci-fi thriller “65” landed at No. 4 with $5.8 million from 3,405 theaters, a 54% drop from its debut. Starring Adam Driver, the film has grossed $22.4 million so far, which isn’t a great result for its $45 million budget.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” rounded out the top five with $4.1 million from 2,650 theaters in its fifth weekend of release. To date, it has grossed $205 million in North America behind the original Ant-Man ($180 million) and the 2018 sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp” ($216 million). But with $462 million worldwide, “Ant-Man 3″‘s ticket sales are dramatically below the first film’s $519 million and then $622 million.