Box Office: ‘The Flash’ and ‘Elemental’ Disappoint in Battle of Summer Lightweights

You can’t win them all in moments like this when box office analysts “believe” Hollywood has returned to the norm before COVID-times. With the benefit of hindsight, it did appear that The Flash (and even Elemental) were destined to underperform in this opening weekend.

And think again before anyone thinks this is an indictment on Ezra Miller’s recent chaotic actions or Disney’s insistence on crowning Pixar releases like they were five years ago. What appears to be the growing sentiment amongst moviegoers is that (decaying) franchise installments like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and Fast X are becoming a conflict of interest over audience demand vs. studio demand. Transformers hasn’t lit the world on fire, even with decent-to-worthwhile reboots, and the Fast and Furious series keeps relying more so on overseas than domestic earnings (when folks in the U.S. might enjoy home roots to spread Internet memes about Dominic Toretto’s agenda on family). The Flash seems to fit this bill because A) online fandom that signifies overwhelming high praise is not indicative of general moviegoer interest, and B) despite Miller’s diabolical public stance, audiences didn’t exactly find much interest in his crimes or Keaton’s return after three decades, and C) no one seems enticed about James Gunn’s/Peter Safran’s DC reset.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Yours indeed has spoken about this in length in that Warner Brothers sabotaged its goods in trying to compete with Marvel’s cinematic universe. Each time, it collapsed due to bludgeoning tones, excessive fan satiations, and frantic reckless endangerment of creating a multilayered universe too rapidly. Batman vs. Superman could’ve gone another few years without releasing and destroying Warner Brothers’ immediate future; 2016’s Suicide Squad could’ve opted for a more intriguing approach to its source material (instead of waiting several years for a reboot to correct its woes). And, Justice League (with or without Snyder) would’ve not creatively stifled half the superhero team it was trying to build all of DC around. The TV series (on CW) already gave a spectacular insight into the speedster over nine seasons, and it did it with much more respect and consideration for the character (and was also free to view). The DCEU’s incarnation was tossed around several times with cameos and an acceptable performance in Justice League that might’ve given audiences enough of the nature.

Anyway, The Flash turned out $55 million domestically and $139 million worldwide in its opening weekend. In other words, for a $200-million budgeted superhero feature, this will most likely disappoint, much like Black Adam did last year. It’s cumbersome to get further investment when we limp along with the last two DCEU outings in Blue Beetle and Aquaman 2 this year and then jump straight into James Gunn’s new vision with Superman and other tales. The best hope is it can “just” reach the near break-even point, and VOD can attempt to mitigate those increments of losses; otherwise, Gunn could easily replace Miller in his next bank of ideas for DC.

Photo Courtesy of Pixar/Disney

On the other hand, Elemental took in $29.5 million in its debut and $15 million overseas for $44.5 million thus far. Disney+ hanging in a dark cloud didn’t help, nor did the five-year-long rut Disney animation films find themselves in. And once again, a high budget of $200 million does it no favors as it won’t have any juice to combat this price tag. Like how Lightyear collapsed when Disney started teaching audiences to invest in its streaming service, this is simply a verification for the latest (good) Pixar film. Maybe if Iger didn’t step down (briefly), this might’ve not occurred.

In other relative news, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is sailing along with $27.8 million in its third weekend domestically, and it should be passing $500 million worldwide by tomorrow. With current legs, it should still comfortably pass $600 million (maybe $625 million) at this pace on a $100 million budget. This one is the unmitigated success story of the summer of 2023. Animation can still be a winner, Disney.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts took in $20 million in its second weekend (67% drop) and has passed $100 million domestically and should pass $300 million later this week. Getting past $400 million worldwide should be doable, but $450 million might be a bridge too far. And The Little Mermaid took in $11.6 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its worldwide cume to $466 million. That would be good news, but not standing by a $250 million budget. It should have enough to reach the $500 million mark.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has passed $820 million worldwide, while The Super Mario Bros. Movie nears $1.33 billion (in unbridled success stories). Fast X is limping to $700 million, meaning that skyrocketing budget was not a good choice (even when discounting COVID measures); best of luck for Part 2. Asteroid City by Wes Anderson opened in six theaters for $790k, the 15th-biggest ever (and the largest since La La Land seven years ago).

Next weekend sees the release of No Hard Feelings, and God Is a Bullet.

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