Shazam wasn’t the magic word at the weekend box office.
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” opened to No. 1 in North America, but the Warner Bros. and 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 collect $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 to market.
It’s a substantial drop from 2019’s “Shazam,” the first comic book installment starring Zachary Levi’s quirky hero, which opened to $53.5 million and ended its box office run with $140 million domestically and $366 million globally. It’s also one of the worst starts in the DC Cinematic Universe, other than pandemic-era releases like “Wonder Woman 1984” ($16.7 million) and “The Suicide Squad” ($26 million), which both 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.
“It’s a soft start, there’s no other way to put it,” says Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice Pro. “Comic book films are steadily showing that without an event-level hook, it’s difficult to live up to predecessor performances.”
Reviews and word-of-mouth may not help “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” in the coming weeks. It landed a “B+” CinemaScore, down from the first film’s “A” grade. And it holds a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, a dramatic decline 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 Daughters of Atlas, who wield a weapon that could destroy the world. Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren co-star in the film.
“Fury of the Gods,” to some degree, is also the victim of the big reset at DC. It’s the first movie to be released since James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the superhero universe and set it on a brand new direction. Though the producers have been careful not to absolutely rule out the return of any established DC hero (save for Henry Cavill as Superman), fans can see the writing on the wall.
“DC sequels have seen diminishing returns in recent years,” Robbins says. “That’s compounded by the current creative shakeup, whose impact won’t be felt for a couple of years [but] makes the broader franchise feel even more fragmented to audiences for the time being.”
At one point, comic book tentpoles were untouchable at the box office. But “Shazam 2,” as well as Disney’s poorly received Marvel sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” are beginning to reveal cracks, at least when it comes to subpar-rated adventures. “Ant Man 3” impressed with its mighty $106 million opening 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 prior standalone adventure “Black Adam,” led by Dwayne Johnson, also massively disappointed in its theatrical run, grossing $392 million worldwide on its $200 million-plus budget.
That’s not to suggest that superhero fatigue has taken over — and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” look to dominate at the summer box office — but it points to a future in which studios can no longer release just any mega-budgeted comic book adaptation in theaters with the expectation it’ll gross at least $500 million globally with ease.
“So far [in 2023], ‘Ant-Man’ slowed after an excellent start, and ‘Shazam’ is falling,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Neither film found an original, creative way forward; neither elevated their series.”
Elsewhere at the box office, Paramount’s thriller “Scream VI” slid to second place with $17.5 million from 3,676 North American cinemas. 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 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 weekend prior. After three weeks of release, the film has generated a stellar $127.7 million. Already, the third “Creed” movie has out-earned its predecessors as the first film ended its run with $109 million and the sequel tapped out with $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 film, starring Adam Driver, has grossed $22.4 million to date, which isn’t a great result given the $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 with $462 million globally, ticket sales for “Ant-Man 3” are dramatically below the first movie with $519 million and the follow-up with $622 million.