The shocking truth about ‘The Flash’s’ disappointing $55 million opening

The superhero flick “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller, triumphed over Pixar’s “Elemental” in a tepid box office competition.

Both films were initially anticipated to fan the summer box office flames, but they fell significantly short of expectations. “The Flash” garnered $55 million, while “Elemental” managed a mere $29.5 million in their respective launches. These results were far from the low-ball predictions. Even more worrying, these films were high-stakes gambles, with each costing $200 million to produce and around $100 million to advertise. Consequently, their cinema runs appear to be heading towards massive underperformance.

In the build-up to the release of “The Flash,” Warner Bros. executives exerted significant effort to sell the movie as a major achievement in the superhero genre. Andy Muschietti directed the film in which Miller’s character Barry Allen, also known as The Flash, time-travels to stop his mother’s killing and unintentionally triggers chaos in the DC multiverse. Yet, the lukewarm “B” CinemaScore from the opening weekend audience suggests a disconnect between the producers’ high praises and the audience’s perception. Given the lack of positive audience feedback and a limited buzz, “The Flash” is likely to have difficulty regaining traction in the coming weeks, with the summer season heating up and the release of major films like “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Mission: Impossible 7,” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”

Film consultant David A. Gross from Franchise Entertainment Research remarked, “The superhero movie’s three-day opening was quite underwhelming.” He noted that while previous films with similar debuts, like 2015’s “Ant-Man” and 2018’s “Aquaman,” managed to convert to impressive global revenues, “The Flash” doesn’t appear to be following the same trajectory.

Internationally, “The Flash” didn’t fare well either, earning $75 million across 78 markets, pushing its global total to $139 million. This performance mirrors Dwayne Johnson’s “Black Adam,” another big-budget ($200 million) film that opened to $67 million and didn’t reach $400 million globally, resulting in a loss in its theatrical run.

Various factors contributed to the film’s weak premiere, one of which being tepid audience responses. Ezra Miller’s recent legal and assault allegations made the typical promotional campaign difficult. Although the actor has apologized for past behavior and sought treatment for mental health issues, his limited public interaction didn’t align with the standard publicity usually seen for films of this magnitude.

Furthermore, “The Flash” is the second of three DC films to be released in 2023 before new leadership from James Gunn and Peter Safran steer the comic book universe in a new direction. This change left “The Flash” and the notoriously unsuccessful “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” in a precarious situation, struggling to engage comic book fans who know the current universe will soon be revamped.

On the other hand, “Elemental,” an animated tale about an unlikely alliance, took in an additional $15 million at the international box office for a global total of $44.5 million. Unlike its rival, “Elemental” has been warmly received by audiences, earning an “A” CinemaScore. This feedback could lead to a slight recovery in ticket sales in the weeks to come, particularly given the lack of family-friendly competition.

Still, Pixar’s “Elemental” has the dubious honor of having the worst start in the studio’s recent history, performing worse than even the less memorable “The Good Dinosaur” ($39 million) and “Onward” ($39 million). The studio behind hits like “Toy Story” and “Up” hasn’t yet recovered from the pandemic’s effects, which saw several of its releases going straight to Disney+ and retrained family audiences to watch its films at home.

In the meantime, other films saw mixed success at the box office. Lionsgate’s horror satire “The Blackening” debuted in sixth place, earning $6 million. Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” held onto third place, pulling in a substantial $27.8 million in its third weekend of release. Paramount’s “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” managed to cross the $100 million mark domestically despite a 67% drop in ticket sales in its second week. Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” continues to struggle to break even in its theatrical run, landing in fifth place with earnings of $11.6 million in its fourth weekend.

In limited release, Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” pulled in $790,000 from six theaters in New York and Los Angeles. However, as the film expands next weekend into 1,500 theaters, the challenge will be to capture the interest of mainstream audiences – a hurdle that other acclaimed indies have struggled to overcome.

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