Shazam wasn’t the magic word at the weekend box office.
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” opened at No. 1 in North America, but Warner Bros. and the DC Comics sequel fell short of expectations with its disappointing $30.5 million debut from 4,071 theaters. Heading into the weekend, the film was expected to gross $35 million to $40 million, which already wasn’t all that spectacular since it cost north of $110 million to make and another $100 million more to market.
That’s a significant drop from 2019’s “Shazam,” the first comic book deal starring Zachary Levi’s queer star, which opened to $53.5 million and finished with $140 million domestically and $366 million globally. It’s also one of the worst starts in the DC Cinematic Universe, aside from pandemic 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 word of mouth might not help “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” this coming week. It landed a “B+” CinemaScore, down from the first film’s “A” grade. And it holds 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!” – as they team up to fight the Atlas Daughters, who wield a weapon that could destroy the world. Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren star in the film.
“Fury of the Gods” is to some extent also a victim of the great reset at DC. It’s the first film 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 absolutely rule out the return of any established DC hero (except for Henry Cavill as Superman), fans can see the writing on the wall.
At one point, cartoon tentpoles were untouchable at the box office. But “Shazam 2,” as well as Disney’s ill-received Marvel sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” are starting to show cracks, at least when it comes to subpar 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 of the trilogy despite the biggest start. DC’s previous standalone adventure “Black Adam,” led by Dwayne Johnson, also disappointed massively in its theatrical run, grossing $392 million worldwide on its $200 million budget.
That’s not to suggest superhero fatigue has taken hold — and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” appear to be dominating the summer box office — but it points to a future where studios can no longer release just any mega-budget comic book adaptation in theaters with the expectation that it will easily gross at least $500 million globally.
“So far (in 2023), ‘Ant-Man’ has slowed down after a great start, and ‘Shazam’ is falling,” said David A. Gross, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. “None of the films found an original, creative way forward; neither lifted their streak.”
Elsewhere at the box office, Paramount’s thriller “Scream VI” slipped to second with $17.5 million from 3,676 North American theaters. Those box office sales, down 61% from its stunning $41 million debut, bring the sequel’s domestic tally to $76 million after two weeks on the big screen. The horror flick has added another $40 million internationally, bringing its global tally 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 generated an amazing $127.7 million. Already, the third “Creed” film has outsold its predecessors, as the first film ended with $109 million and the sequel took in $115 million.
Sony’s prehistoric sci-fi thriller “65” landed at No. 4 with $5.8 million from 3,405 theaters, down 54% from its debut. The film, starring Adam Driver, has grossed $22.4 million so far, which isn’t a great result given 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. So far, it has generated $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 globally, “Ant-Man 3” box office sales are dramatically below the first film’s $519 million and the follow-up’s $622 million.