In another universe, “The Flash,” once touted by its own studio as “one of the greatest superhero movies of all time,” would be towering over the box office with ease in its second weekend of release.
But in this universe, audiences are flat-out rejecting the Warner Bros. movie, starring Ezra Miller as the eponymous, timeline-spanning speedster. Rather than taking a victory lap, the comic book adventure is cratering in third place with $15.3 million from 4,265 North American theaters, marking a brutal 73% decline from its unimpressive $55 million debut. That’s a far bigger drop than recent DC adaptations, including “Black Adam” (59%) and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” (69%), which ended up as huge money losers for the studio.
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In the case of “The Flash,” it’s a catastrophic result for the $200 million-budgeted tentpole because it signals that ticket sales won’t rebound in its theatrical run. So far, it’s generated a lousy $67 million at the domestic box office, which is lower than the film was projected to earn in its debut. “The Flash” hasn’t made up too much ground internationally with $123.3 million, bringing the worldwide total to $210.9 million.
Part of the problem is that DC’s new leaders James Gunn and Peter Safran have shared plans to take the comic book universe in an entirely new direction, leaving films like “The Flash” hanging in the balance. What is worse for DC is the flailing comic book universe has two additional tentpoles on the schedule for 2023. “Blue Beetle,” starring Xolo Maridueña as the alien symbiote, opens on Aug. 18 and Jason Momoa’s “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is set for Dec. 20.
Overall, it’s a chaotic weekend at the box office as Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” returns to the No. 1 spot (in its fourth weekend of release, no less) with a mighty $19.3 million. So far, it’s generated $316 million in North America and $500 million globally.
On domestic charts, the second “Spider-Verse” film narrowly beat out Disney and Pixar’s animated “Elemental,” which remained in second place with $18.5 million. That brings its domestic tally to $65 million and its global total to $121 million. Ticket sales in its sophomore outing were stronger than anticipated, dropping only 37% from the prior weekend. Unfortunately for “Elemental,” it landed (by far) the worst start in modern history for Pixar so it’ll need to remain the de facto choice for family audiences to justify its $200 million price tag and restore a little confidence in the Pixar brand.
Jennifer Lawrence’s raunchy comedy “No Hard Feelings” opened in fourth place with $15 million from 3,208 venues. It’s not a terrible result for a theatrical comedy in this moviegoing environment, but analysts were expecting more for the $45 million-budgeted movie that stars one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Earlier this year, Universal’s wild R-rated “Cocaine Bear” managed to collect $23.2 million in its opening weekend without the promise of household names on the marquee.
Gene Stupnitsky directed “No Hard Feelings,” which stars Lawrence as a down-on-her-luck Uber driver who accepts a Craigslist ad to “date” an introverted 19-year-old boy (newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman) before he goes to college. Audiences mostly liked the film, which landed a “B+” CinemaScore.
“‘No Hard Feelings’ wasn’t cheap to make at $45 million before marketing costs,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “That’s a big number at these box office levels.”
Rounding out the top five, Paramount’s “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” added $11.6 million from 3,523 theaters, a 44% decline in its third weekend. To date, the seventh “Transformers” installment has earned $122.9 million at the domestic box office and $218 million internationally. It cost $200 million.
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” scored $9 million as it expanded to 1,675 theaters over the weekend. That’s a career-high for Anderson, the filmmaker of arthouse favorites like “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” By comparison, his latest feature, 2021’s “The French Dispatch,” brought in $2.5 million when it expanded in a similar number of theaters.
The 1950s-set “Asteroid City” takes place as a cosmic event disrupts a fictional desert town and stars Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Hawke, Bryan Cranston and dozens of other Anderson regulars. Audiences — 64% were 35 years or younger — gave the film a so-so “B” CinemaScore.
It’s fantastic to see the best weekend that Wes Anderson has ever had at the box office reignite the specialty marketplace,” says Lisa Bunnell, president of distribution at Focus Features. “The opening of ‘Asteroid City’ the past two weekends has been incredibly encouraging and inspiring.”
More to come…
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