Comic book movies are having a shaky time of it right now at the box office, with Shazam! Fury of the Gods failing to light up the cinemas.
Following Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania's unwanted record of being the lowest-grossing Ant-Man movie, Shazam 2 has gone even lower than the Marvel threequel. The sequel scored one of the lowest debuts for the current DC era, and things only got worse in its second weekend.
With a 68% drop, the DC sequel recorded the third-worst week-on-week drop behind Batman v Superman (69%) and The Suicide Squad (71%). But Batman v Superman was dropping from a much higher debut and The Suicide Squad was available to watch on HBO Max at the same time.
So what are the reasons behind Shazam! Fury of the Gods flopping at the box office? Let's investigate.
Shazam 2 box office explained
Let's start with the current numbers. After its second weekend of release, Shazam! Fury of the Gods has grossed $102.4 million, with $46.3 million from the US and $56.1 million overseas where it's been released in most major markets, except France.
It might have crossed $100 million, but it'll be unlikely to get to $200 million. In the US, its second weekend amassed only $9.7 million and the sequel was crushed by John Wick 4's record opening. It'll end up just about ahead of Shazam!'s opening weekend of $53.5 million, likely around the $60 million mark.
Currently, Shazam 2 is the lowest-grossing outing of the DC Extended Universe behind Wonder Woman 1984 ($166.4 million) and The Suicide Squad ($167.1 million). It might overtake those movies, but it's far from guaranteed if its second weekend decline is a sign of things to come.
The obvious place to start to explain its box-office disappointment is with its critical reception. Where the first movie rode high with a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the sequel is languishing with 51% although at least it can take comfort in knowing it's not the lowest (that's Suicide Squad's 26%, fact fans).
Cast members such as Rachel Zegler and Zachary Levi, along with director David F Sandberg, have been on a charm offensive, insisting it's actually a really good movie and pointing to the 87% audience score.
But the fact remains that the audience hasn't shown up for it. Shazam fans might have shown up for opening weekend, but the drop-off suggests that they didn't come back for more, while the mixed reviews would have put off the wider audience of blockbuster fans or casual comic-book movie viewers.
DC movies might no longer be instantly available on HBO Max, but audiences are savvy enough to know nowadays that they don't have to wait as long as they used to. Rumours suggest Shazam 2 will be available at home by mid-April, around a month after release, so there will be plenty of potential viewers happy to wait.
It could also be argued that there just wasn't the inbuilt fanbase for a Shazam sequel in the first place. The first movie, while being a genuinely great movie, grossed $363.6 million at the box office which didn't exactly place it high in DC's overall list. (Even the critically maligned Black Adam made more at $391.3 million.)
Combined with the soft critical response to the sequel, it didn't spell great things for the sequel. A sign that Warner Bros knew something had to be done was the inclusion of the sequel's big DC cameo, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, being spoiled in a TV spot ahead of release.
Wonder Woman couldn't turn the tide though and even if the sequel does avoid the ignominy of being the lowest-grossing DC Extended Universe outing, you'd imagine that Shazam 3 is extremely unlikely to happen.
Some DC fans might say that was always going to be the case anyway. There was already a feeling of 'does this even matter?' ahead of the sequel's release, what with James Gunn and Peter Safran's new DC era on the horizon.
It's thought to be a soft reboot, but they never ruled out bringing back established characters (except Henry Cavill's Superman, sorry). Had Shazam 2 performed better, we couldn't rule out Zachary Levi reprising the role in future, whether in a third movie or just in a cameo/supporting character capacity.
You could argue that the sequel was affected by this wider DC change, but we don't think that's the case. DC fans still came out in their droves for Joker ($1.07 billion) and The Batman ($767.5 million), both of which were totally separate to the main DC timeline and it didn't affect them.
As if to illustrate the point, over at Marvel, Ant-Man 3 was pretty much entirely set up for what's to come in the MCU, and it's still been a box office disappointment at $464.8 million. (Although we imagine Shazam 2 would have been very happy to be a disappointment at such numbers.)
It may sound simplistic to say that fans just want a good movie, rather than caring about whether something does or doesn't impact a franchise's future. However, as is often the case, the simplest answer is likely the most accurate one.
Perhaps if The Flash or Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom suffer as much as Shazam 2 has at the box office, we can re-assess whether it's the wider DC changes that impacted its chances.
But for now, it's likely that the DC sequel's failure at the box office was that it wasn't good enough to persuade potential viewers to ignore the critics and show up.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is out now in cinemas.
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