To quote Whiplash, perhaps there is blood in the water and the sharks will come.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania plunged 70% in its second weekend, the worst for any MCU title despite clutching to the No. 1 spot. Middling reviews and a “B” CinemaScore grade also kind of told the story this time for a merely “fine” threequel. Again, there may be more to it if we remember the past. Ant-Man 3 was sold as a heavy mythology episode, going full-fledged Avengers style into the Quantum Realm area while setting up the big, evil antagonist for the subsequent two phases. Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opened way above expectations, despite Disney selling the hell out of their premises. They also took heavy drops on their second weekend because people wanted to see the premise and get it over with rather than requiring the need for multiple viewings. The same fate falls onto our tiny hero, albeit much harsher due to mediocre word-of-mouth and not warranting a narrative that keeps it “simply” Ant-Man 3.
Peyton Reed and Jeff Loveness get praise for turbocharging into an ambitious territory with our more minor heroes. Still, it felt erratic and a strike against one of Marvel’s best sub-franchises. Yours indeed saw The Avengers before seeing any other Marvel films; crowds of folks saw Infinity War and Endgame without internalizing twenty movies prior. Marvel rewarded fans for spreading the notion that you must see every other movie to appreciate the interconnectivity, easter eggs, and subtle developments. But now, it feels like that’s draining down the toilet due to superfluous Disney+ shows and a movie every other quarter that continues the narrative of “superhero fatigue.” Ant-Man 3 will play like its predecessors, which is fine, but it pigeonholes it into a bizarre position and an Ant-Man 4 will need to redeem much of its woes. Due to its performance this weekend, Hollywood no longer views Marvel Studios as an unkillable tentpole juggernaut. Now granted, that can change with Guardians 3 and The Marvels later this year, but there’s a growing aura of skepticism now.
In any case, the threequel is around $363 million worldwide; if it can leg out fine going forward, it’ll hit $225 million domestically and $515 million worldwide (minus a boost from China). Is this a loss for Disney/Marvel? Not necessarily, but I may have to retract my words and dub this as an overall loss, meaning Marvel Studios’ track record is officially 28-3 (with losses in this one, Thor 4, and Eternals). The one person who is benefitting from it all currently is Jonathan Majors, as he will be rocking in for Creed 3 this coming weekend while progressing his path in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Avengers 5 & 6.
Onto good news, Cocaine Bear sold viewers what they wanted and it delivered a fun mess with a black bear ingesting cocaine and murdering anyone else. It earned $23.2 million in its debut, meaning that Universal’s run of violent cinema (M3GAN, Violent Night, and now Cocaine Bear) are all paying off as elevator pitches that qualify as escapism. We could be looking at a sleeper hit for numbers while more blockbusters continue to launch in March, so no one will be giving up on our stoned black bear friend yet. A domestic finish of around $50-60 million is very plausible.
Jesus Revolution also continued a win for original moviegoing, restoring us closer to pre-COVID regular times. $15.8 million will do the trick for a simple Christian film than another redundant persecution-complex version.
Meanwhile, Avatar: The Way of Water and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish are legging out like champs, only dropping 26 and 23 percent, respectively. The former is moving toward $2.3 billion worldwide, while the latter is closer to $450 million worldwide. Sometimes, the IP/marketing will do the trick for appealing to audiences as they’ve waited years for sequels.
Unfortunately, M3GAN will just miss the $100 million domestic mark as it’s been pulled out of theaters left and right, but the creepy-new AI doll will be getting a sequel and lots of love. Sometimes, it all works out.
This coming weekend sees the release of Creed 3.