The Marvels vs. the Fluctuating Budget

The Marvels may cost Disney more than everyone thought a few days ago. Reports were that the budget for the upcoming Marvel film – the last one of 2023 – was $130 million, tied with that of Ant-Man for the lowest in the MCU’s history. (This is being attributed to a Vanity Fair article on director Nia DaCosta, but I read it several times and can’t find that figure anywhere; I assume they deleted it after it was proven erroneous.) However, Forbes reported today that it learned via Disney filing reports that the true budget is $274.8 million. That makes it the fourth most expensive MCU movie yet, only costing less than Avengers: Endgame ($400 million), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($365 million), and Avengers: Infinity War ($300 million). IGN surmises the discrepancy could have come from Vanity Fair only reporting the production budget without factoring in things like marketing, re-shoots, and the like, but Forbes says that this is what was spent on The Marvels through September 30, 2022, so that doesn’t completely wash. The huge budget is somewhat buttressed by a $55 million subsidy from the UK government, so it’s only got to deal with spending $219.8 million.

No two ways about it; that budget is insane. The only Marvel movies that cost more were Avengers movies, massive blockbuster events that were sequels to a mega-hit that grossed $1.5 billion. To be fair, Captain Marvel also grossed over $1 billion, but the atmosphere around this one is not the same; it’s not sandwiched between two of the biggest and most anticipated movies of all time (with an Ant-Man and the Wasp garnish), it’s not being billed as necessary to understand one of those movies, fans don’t seem to have been too keen on Captain Marvel, and about fifteen people have watched the Disney+ shows that are required to understand two of the main characters. But most importantly of all, the Marvel brand is not what it once was, and audiences are wary of a studio that’s lost its way big time. And the budget did not have to be this big; I know it takes place mostly in space and features a lot of aliens and sci-fi special effects, but so did the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, all of which were cheaper to make than The Marvels. But this movie was greenlit and filmed before people were talking about the downfall of the Marvel brand in earnest, so they were taking a page out of Mr. Burns’ book and wallowing in their own crapulence. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost, and Disney is set to lose a lot of money yet again. Will it be close enough that the entertainment media will be able to spin it as a mild success or even a wash? Hard to say, but if Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is an indicator, probably not.

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