The Marvels has started off its box office run with a meh $6.6 million in Thursday evening previews, well behind the $20.7 million grossed by Captain Marvel in 2019. And if Friday matinee returns are any indication, the movie is on course to score the lowest opening ever for a title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The 33rd installment in the MCU is a sequel to the 2019 Brie Larson-starrer Captain Marvel, which opened to $153.4 million in North America on its way to earning a massive $1.13 billion worldwide, not adjusted for inflation. That movie had a clear advantage in that it was teased in the post-credit scene of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, while its titular star was a player in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame (it was released between the two Marvel mega-blockbusters).
The Marvels, from Marvel Studios and Disney, faces several major challenges as it officially opens everywhere on Friday. The movie has been slipping in tracking, an unusual situation. Three weeks ago, major research films showed Captain Marvel debuting to $75 million to $80 million at the domestic box office.
Heading into the weekend, tracking service and Disney insiders had lowered their forecasts to between $60 million to $65 million. And at least one service, The Quorum, predicted south of $60 million. Marvel and Disney remained hopeful that interest and awareness would pick up, and that The Marvels will see a boost from some kids being out of school Friday because of Veterans Day (the actual holiday is Saturday).
But matinee returns aren’t providing tremendous reason for hope, with Disney insiders now giving an opening weekend estimate of $47 million to $55 million. But even that might be bullish, as rival studios show the movie coming in at $46 million or lower (Saturday morning estimates should bring some clarity).
To date, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk holds the record for the lowest domestic opening of any MCU title at $55.4 million, not adjusted for inflation (Marvel, which wasn’t owned by Disney at the time, partnered with Universal for Hulk).
The next lowest MCU opening belongs to Marvel/Disney’s Ant-Man, which started off with $57.2 million domestically in 2015.
In the new movie, Larson is joined by Iman Vellani, the breakout star of the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, as well as Teyonah Parris as the grown-up version of Captain Marvel character Monica Rambeau. The actor made her Marvel debut with WandaVision, which counted The Marvels screenwriter Megan McDonnell among its writers.
The Marvels is unique for a superhero film in that it stars three female leads. It was directed by Nia DaCosta, who is the first Black woman to direct a Marvel Studios movie, as well as the youngest director of an MCU film (DaCosta turns 34 on Nov. 8). Marvel has taken pride in fostering such indie directors as Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi and Chloé Zhao.
The cast of The Marvels wasn’t able to do any promotion or publicity because of the SAG-AFTRA strike, although Larson and her co-stars sprung into action Thursday after the strike ended. Larson will appear on The Tonight Show on Friday, while she and her co-stars will surprise fans at various screenings of the movie in New York City.
The Marvels is also battling superhero fatigue. This summer, DC’s The Flash — which had been billed as a triumph by Warner Bros. leadership prior to its opening — debuted to a dismal $55 million domestically on its way to topping out at a paltry $270.6 million domestically.
Thursday previews don’t necessarily determine a movie’s fate, but The Marvels is off to a worrisome start. As an example, The Flash grossed $9.7 in previews.
Overseas, The Marvels is pacing to open to $60 million for a global start of $140 million, compared to nearly $190 million for Captain Marvel.
Nov. 10, 2:10 p.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.