What Does Quantumania’s Box Office Drop Mean for Marvel?

Ant-Man and the Wasp are being squashed like bugs. In its second weekend, Marvel’s latest superhero outing, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, dropped from its $106 million domestic opening to just under $32 million, according to The Numbers. This is a 70% drop, the worst in the MCU’s history. It’s also a bigger drop than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was considered a massive failure at the time. Quantumania cost at least $200 million to make before advertising (and with the magnitude of the special effects, plus the reshoots, I suspect it was more than that), meaning it’ll need a good $500 million to break even if we estimate conservatively. I don’t think that’s in the cards now. It currently sits at $363,233,739 worldwide; it’ll likely get to $400 million, but past that, it’ll sputter till it finally dies.

Typically, we don’t report on box office here, but I think Quantumania’s fall is a bigger deal than a normal weekend’s take because it’s indicative of the MCU’s decline. A 70% drop in a week is not “superhero fatigue” or any of the other lame excuses that are coming. (Have a look through the mainstream entertainment sites to watch spin that would short out a tilt-a-whirl.) Some of them are valid – Ant-Man isn’t exactly a big draw as a character, for example. But Marvel clearly thought this movie would be a hit; they used it to introduce Kang, the new overarching villain of the MCU, and much of the marketing was built around seeing him. And when a Marvel movie is considered important to the next Avengers film, it tends to perform well. That this one isn’t indicates a level of apathy towards the MCU; people aren’t as compelled to see what Kang is all about as they were to see what that funky-looking pager Nick Fury had at the end of Infinity War was.

But those aren’t the main problem with Quantumania. The real reason it dropped like a rock is that people didn’t like it. It’s got the lowest CinemaScore of any MCU film, and even the critics didn’t pretend to think it was good. A drop that steep is a rejection, both by people who saw it opening weekend and have no desire to come back and their friends and families, who were told it sucks by the Marvel fans in their lives. Disney, Marvel, and their media cheerleaders can put on a brave face and make all the excuses they want (“Who could’ve seen the cultural juggernaut that was Cocaine Bear coming?”), but this is bad for the future. People were intrigued by Thanos from the moment he grinned in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers; he was the biggest selling point of Infinity War, just as Kang was of Quantumania because Marvel was banking on audiences wanting to see the big bad guy in action. The difference – aside from the presence of the Avengers – is that Infinity War delivered a compelling villain that audiences wanted to see again and again, plus a great movie with some of the best moments in the MCU. With Quantumania, they didn’t; however good Jonathan Majors was, Kang is no Thanos, and he’s stuck in a bad movie to boot.

So, where does Marvel go from here? I have no idea because I don’t think these people are behaving rationally anymore. I doubt they’ll ditch Kang; they’ve committed too much, and a change that drastic would be too big an admission of failure. I suspect they’ll lean even harder into the multiverse hook and try to make future versions of Kang more interesting, but if they plan on having him be defeated in each movie, that won’t matter much. They need to settle on one Kang as the main Kang, the true antagonist among the many variants, and he’d better be something special. If they were smart, they’d also ditch some of these upcoming films and focus on a few they can make great. Get rid of Blade, which nobody wants to see without Wesley Snipes, and get rid of Thunderbolts, which nobody remembers is a thing till they look up which MCU movies are on the docket. I’d love for them to ditch Star-Spangled Falcon: New World Order too, but that won’t happen; at the very least, don’t make it another race-obsessed lecture like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. (This goes for everything, actually; for the love of God, leave your politics at the door.) Then, focus on making Fantastic Four, Deadpool 3, and the two Avengers movies as great as possible. Put some money into the directors and writers instead of snapping up nobodies and in-house hacks who’ll work for peanuts. With fewer movies, maybe you can even give your special effects teams – the ones who are still masochistic or starving enough to work with you – enough time to do their jobs, so your next big blockbuster tent pole doesn’t become a laughing stock before anyone even sees it.

Ant-Man box office

Taken together, these amount to the ultimate lesson Marvel needs to learn as soon as possible: they aren’t invincible anymore. They can’t afford to cut corners and rush projects because they know people will see them no matter what. Phase 4 and now Quantumania have proven that that ship has sailed. Actually, that’s not right. The ship hasn’t sailed; Marvel sank it. They sank it with their arrogant, condescending attitude towards the audience. There’s no way in hell any of them thought Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – or Thor: Love and Thunder, or Eternals, or Shang-Chi – was good. They just assumed it was good enough for people addicted to their product, like a drug dealer cutting his coke. Over and over, they’re being told that they’re wrong, and this time especially, it’s going to cost them a lot of money. And no matter how much they have Hank Pym long for socialism, there are only so many flops they’ll be able to take. What’s almost a shame is that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is probably going to be successful, and that will give them a reprieve from reality. Of course, the one thing they won’t take away from it is that it will do well because it’s probably good.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the new updates!