This weekend’s two new releases were once expected to ignite the summer blockbuster season; instead, both entirely missed the mark. “The Flash” stumbled with $55 million and “Elemental” collected just $29.5 million in their respective debuts. Both films fell short of already-low expectations. Worse, they were pricy endeavors, costing $200 million to make and roughly $100 million to market, so they are shaping up to be huge disappointments in their theatrical runs.
In the lead-up to “The Flash,” executives at Warner Bros. worked hard to convince the public that the film is “one of the greatest superhero movies ever made,” per newly minted DC Studios co-chief James Gunn. Directed by Andy Muschietti, the story picks up as Miller’s Barry Allen a.k.a The Flash travels back in time to prevent his mother’s murder and inadvertently cracks open the DC multiverse. (Cameos abound!)
But a tepid “B” CinemaScore from opening weekend crowds suggests that the moviegoing masses didn’t entirely agree with the lavish praise bestowed on the film by the people who made it. Without positive audience scores or strong word-of-mouth, “The Flash” will struggle to rebound in the coming weeks, especially as summer season heats up with the release of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” on June 30, “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” on July 12 and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” on July 21.
“This is a weak three-day opening for a superhero [film],” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “There have been similar openings that grew into big numbers,” he adds, referring to 2015’s “Ant-Man,” which opened to $57 million and ended with $519 million worldwide, as well as 2018’s “Aquaman,” which debuted to $67.4 million and finished at $1.15 billion globally. “But we do not see that here.”
“The Flash” also stumbled at the international box office with $75 million from 78 markets, bringing its global tally to $139 million. Unless its box office fortunes rebound, “The Flash” looks to fall more closely in line with Dwayne Johnson’s $200 million-budgeted “Black Adam,” which opened last year to $67 million and failed to reach $400 million globally, ultimately losing money in its theatrical run.
Analysts believe that several factors, one of them being those unenthusiastic audience reactions, are to blame for the film’s weak initial turnout. Another roadblock is that “The Flash” landed on the big screen without a traditional promotional push. That’s because Miller has become a controversial figure in recent years due to legal troubles and assault allegations. The actor, who has apologized for past erratic behavior and went to treatment for “complex mental health issues,” made a rare public appearance at Monday’s premiere of “The Flash” but didn’t engage with press or other publicity efforts that would be standard for a tentpole of this scope.
Also, “The Flash” is the second of four DC films to open in 2023 before the studio’s new overlords Gunn and Peter Safran take the comic book universe in an entirely new direction. That’s left “The Flash” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” one of the biggest superhero misfires in recent memory, hanging in the balance. It’s apparently hard to get comic book fans to care about an interconnected universe that’ll soon be abandoned and rebooted in favor of different Spandex-clad heroes. “Blue Beetle,” starring Xolo Maridueña as a boy who bonds with an alien symbiote, opens on Aug. 18. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is set for Dec. 20.