“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” opened the summer blockbuster season with $114 million at the domestic box office, falling short of expectations as it continues to be the second biggest debut of the year.
There are a lot of ways to parse that raw number, but for the third and final installment of the James Gunn-directed Marvel trilogy, it’ll be less about opening weekend – and more about waiting. This is the industry’s expression of how sharply (or not) a movie’s ticket sales drop in the weekends following its theatrical release.
It’s hard to check out a movie that opened over $100 million. However, analysts were anticipating a stronger start for “Vol. 3” because it’s the last of the old Marvel tentpoles (at least, announced) and because its predecessor, the 2017 sequel “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” enjoyed a 146 million debut. dollar. Shrinkage is not a problem as long as attendance keeps coming.
The problem is that the pandemic-era films in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe have suffered from momentum issues at the box office. Recent installments started out strong, but quickly ran out of steam. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” in particular, fell apart after making a trilogy-best debut with $106 million. Ticket sales for Paul Rudd’s third standalone adventure plunged 70% in its second weekend, continuing the troubling trend from “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (down 67% in its second weekend) and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” (a 67.7% drop out in the second year outing). It would be troubling if Guardians suffered the same fate as it would further the narrative that the MCU is struggling to maintain its status as an A-list franchise.
Unlike “Quantumania,” though, fans have embraced “Vol. 3, which has an “A” CinemaScore and a score of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. But the comic book Threequel only has two weeks without competition. Blockbuster season returns to high levels with “Fast X” on May 19 and “The Little Mermaid” on May 26.
“The good news is that Vol. 3 is generating very positive word of mouth,” says Sean Robbins, senior analyst at Box Office Pro. Marvel uploaded last summer.”
David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, cautions against bashing Marvel, given its track record. Of the 32 films in the franchise, each opened at #1, and 10 have crossed $1 billion globally. He says, “Keep in mind.” “For superheroes, mediocrity is in the stratosphere.”
While that’s true (the average movie will kill to earn $100 million in its entire theatrical run, much less in its opening weekend), Marvel movies are held to higher standards. That’s partly because it’s so expensive to produce and market — “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” cost $250 million to produce and nearly $100 million to promote — and because it’s among the highest-grossing films of the year. Disney is pumping out about three theatrical spinoffs a year, not including the many interconnected TV series on Disney+, to satisfy fan demand for more, more, and more superheroes. The third Marvel movie, “The Marvels” starring Brie Larson, opens in November.
“Marvel certainly has the ability to sustain three theatrical films a year,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at comScore. “The key is to take advantage of what the brand has to offer in terms of interesting characters and intriguing stories.”
It’s been hard to maintain this level of production since 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the epic finale to 10 years and 22 films in the making, especially as movie theaters continue to recover from the pandemic. Analysts don’t yet call it superhero fatigue because despite big drops in its second weekend, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” eventually managed to reach $955 million and $760. million dollars in a row. However, Ant-Man 3 failed to reach the $500 million mark, ending that trilogy on a low and making it a rare Marvel movie to lose that much money in its theatrical run.
But those who closely follow the movie and theater industry warn that Marvel can no longer maintain its good faith without introducing a new or groundbreaking film. Eventually, they worry, the audience will tire of the same story over and over — especially if that story Not very good.
“Marvel is still building the post-Endgame roadmap, and it’s never been more clear how difficult that will be,” Robbins says.