Nobody Saw The Marvels – Not Even Women

The Marvels did what everyone expected it to do and bombed. In its opening weekend, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film debuted with  $47 million domestically and $110.3 million internationally. This is the lowest opening weekend take for an MCU movie, underperforming The Incredible Hulk’s $55.4 million domestic opening. (And that’s not adjusted for inflation; The Incredible Hulk’s opening would be around $77 million today.) With a B CinemaScore, it’s unlikely to get good word of mouth, meaning this is the best it’s going to get for The Marvels, the latest in a series of embarrassments for Marvel and Disney.

2023 has made box office receipts more interesting than they usually are because of all the outright bombs Hollywood has been dropping, with The Marvels perhaps the biggest yet (though probably not the last; Aquaman and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is still on deck). The Flash, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Indiana Jones and the Title That’s Almost as Boring as the Movie, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, and Haunted Mansion were all poised to be huge hits for their studios, and they all crashed and burned. People are becoming much more discerning when it comes to blockbusters, and they’ve become adept at seeing the writing on the wall with a lot of modern films. They took one look at Indy’s sassy new girlboss better and stayed home. They remembered Ezra Miller’s awful Justice League performance (and probably saw his real-life crimes) and couldn’t even be enticed by Michael Keaton’s return as Batman. And with Marvel, the brand that once drew massive opening weekend crowds is now a warning that anyone who enters the theater is in for a nightmare of corny jokes, a nonsensical story, little to no characterization, and bad special effects. (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did well because of good word of mouth; its opening weekend was bad.)

The Marvels box office, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

But something else about The Marvels’ opening weekend is fascinating and should be a massive lesson for Disney and the rest of Hollywood. According to Deadline, the audience for The Marvels was 65% male (or “male-leaning,” which, since about .0000000001% of the world would describe themselves as “leaning,” means “men”). That’s a pretty decisive majority, and while this probably shocks the shorts off Hollywood executives and the media, it doesn’t surprise anyone normal. Men and boys are the primary audience for superhero stories, just like women are the primary audience for romantic comedies. But The Marvels wasn’t made for men; it’s got tons of silly cats bouncing around, an out-of-place musical sequence, a scene where the three title characters play jump rope (I’m not kidding), a cheery Nick Fury who doles out too many hugs for a ruthless spy, and a lot of squeeing from Kamala Khan. It wasn’t made for guys, and while most of  the people who gave it a chance are guys, most guys knew this was coming and skipped it.

The Marvels box office, Barbie

But women also skipped it. You know what movie women didn’t skip? Barbie. That was a girls’ movie, and it was made for girls, and it was a massive success. The Marvels is a guys’ movie made for girls, and neither group wanted to see it. When you play to your audience, you can make a lot of money; when you play to a different one, nobody shows up. That’s the secret of all the successes this year; The Super Mario Bros. Movie was made for Mario fans, with references even I didn’t get, and it was a hit. Friday Night at Freddy’s was made for fans of those games (so I learned after talking with people), and it’s making a huge profit. Oppenheimer was a fantastically made drama that portrayed a historical figure in a fascinating light, and people who go for that sort of film went in droves. You would think Hollywood would understand this after a century, but it’s being run by activists as opposed to businessmen now – or, at least, businessmen who have been acquiescing to activists.

The Marvels box office

So, are they done now? Is The Marvels a big enough message for them, combined with Barbie and the other 2023 successes? We won’t know for some time, but Captain America: Brave New World is going to start 2024 by undergoing five months of re-shoots, which means they’re effectively remaking the movie. This was announced before The Marvels opened, but after everyone knew it was going to fail. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but if a course correction is ever to come, now would be the time. Bob Iger and Kevin Feige may have put activism before economics, but at a certain point, people with money involved will no longer allow them to behave that way. A disaster like The Marvels, with several others preceding it, could be the do-or-die moment for Disney and Marvel, and even if they finally start making movies people want to see again, there’s no guarantee the audience will come back.

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