All superheroes have special powers that make them unique and The Flash’s is “superspeed,” giving him the ability to run, move, and think extremely fast almost to the point where he is not constrained by the laws of physics.
The Flash first appeared in January 1940 as a character in Flash Comics #1 published by All American Publications, one of three companies that would eventually combine to form DC Comics. The Flash’s TV career began in 2014 with a series on CW that ran for nine years and concluded last month with its final episode airing on May 24th.
For years, DC has been planning to elevate this intellectual property to star in his own theatrical franchise. Much has been made of the journey this movie has taken to reach the screen, struggling with numerous sidetracks and delays due to director changes, the pandemic, and various post-production setbacks. Unfortunately, its star Ezra Miller has stumbled in his real life with public relations and legal nightmares that began in February 2022.
This created a toxic environment for the film after Miller was the subject of troubling headlines and sometimes violent off-screen behavior including multiple arrests. The cloud hanging over the face of the franchise has made it difficult for Warner Bros. and DC to navigate its all-important pre-opening public relations.
There was even some discussion about canceling the release entirely, following the path that Warner Bros. took last year with BATGIRL, despite that movie being nearly complete and having already invested $90M in its production. When initial test screenings for THE FLASH were well received, the studio decided to carry on with its planned release.
Directed by Andy Muschietti (IT and IT CHAPTER 2), this movie’s storyline is simple and straightforward, with Barry Allen, the real-life persona of The Flash, using his powers to go back in time to attempt to change events in order to alter the course of the future. As is common in many superhero movies, the film makes effective use of cameos by Michael Keaton (Batman) Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne), and Michael Shannon (Zod).
On Rotten Tomatoes, critics have given it a decent grade of 72% but audiences are more impressed with an enthusiastic 95% score. This is the thirteenth feature film in the DC Extended Universe and its opening of $55.1M positions it as the 8th highest opener in the series, falling between BLACK ADAM (2022) which earned $67.0M in its opening weekend, and SHAZAM! (2019) which earned $53.5M.
The financial fate of THE FLASH is still unclear since it will take a number of weeks of strong ticket sales to earn back the $200M-$220M that the studio spent to produce the film. The next DC title is BLUE BEETLE, which opens in two months on August 18th.
Pixar Studios’ 24th animated feature ELEMENTAL also opened this weekend and took second place with a surprisingly low gross of $29.5M. Only a few years ago, Pixar sat at the top of all animation studios, with all its movies producing reliable results. More recently, Disney’s execs have chosen to redirect a series of Pixar releases to Disney+, including SOUL (2020), LUCA(2021), and TURNING RED (2022). The lone theatrical release since 2019 was LIGHTYEAR which opened on 6/17/2022 to an underwhelming $50.6M debut weekend and went on to earn the second lowest total in Pixar history, at only $118.3M.
The disappointment was almost unimaginable, given that LIGHTYEAR was a spinoff of TOY STORY, one of the most popular family movie series of all time. Adding insult to injury, the only Pixar movie with a lower box office was ONWARD, which had the untimely fortune to open on March 6, 2020, giving it only ten days in theatres before the lights went out due to COVID.
ELEMENTAL tells the story of Element City, where fire, water, land, and air have made peace with each other and learned to live together. Of course, conflicts still arise from time to time and must be resolved so that everyone can get beyond them and live harmoniously. ELEMENTAL was directed by Peter Sohn whose previous Pixar movie was THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2015). Reviewers like it well enough, with a 75% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, and moviegoers are even more positive with their 91% audience score.
After an opening this low, it will take many weeks for ELEMENTAL even to reach LIGHTYEAR’s level of success, and it seems impossible that it will turn a profit since Pixar poured $200M into the film’s production. Considering the recent successes of other animated titles such as THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE (Universal/Illumination) and SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE (Sony), it may be that moviegoers are looking for different storylines than a traditional Pixar plot.
Interestingly, Disney’s recent cost-cutting included pink slips for LIGHTYEAR’s director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman. Despite the rough waters, it’s unwise to discount Pixar’s chances of future success. Pixar’s next movie is ELIO, set to release on March 1st, 2024, and featuring an updated, Sci-fi theme.
Finishing in third place is Sony’s SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE in its third weekend with a gross of $27.8M and a decline of 50% from last weekend. Spidey swung back in front of last week’s #1 movie TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS and continues to show its strength even in the face of two new major wide releases this weekend.
After 17 days, SPIDER-VERSE has brought in $280M domestically, which makes it the third biggest film of the year behind SUPER MARIO BROS THE MOVIE ($572M) and GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 ($341M). Next week, we expect to be in a position to make a final forecast on the box office for SPIDER-VERSE in its entire run.
TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS finished in fourth place with a gross of $20.0M and a precipitous decline of 67%. Prior to this weekend, the largest second-weekend decline in franchise history belonged to TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF DISTINCTION (2014) which dropped 63% in its second weekend. RISE OF THE BEASTS has had a somewhat unusual decline since it reached the top of the box office last Friday.
After its one-day victory, it dropped below SPIDER-VERSE every subsequent day. While it still eked out a win for the total of all three days last weekend, it came in lower than the webbed warrior for the full seven days of the week. After 10 days, TRANSFORMERS has taken in $100.6M domestically, which still leads the two predecessors in the series BUMBLEBEE ($67.2M in 2018) and TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT ($90.0M in 2017). The concern going forward is that the sharp decline from opening weekend portends doom for the bots, as the summer competition is only going to heat up from this point forward.
Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID took fifth place with $11.6M, a decline of 50% from last weekend. After 24 days, MERMAID has sold $253.6M domestically and $431.2M worldwide, and we can now project that it will wind up with around $280M domestically and $480M worldwide. This should be good enough to reach profitability but is a bit of a disappointment since the story is considered to be one of Disney’s crown jewels.
Over the past few weekends, we have followed A24’s rollout of PAST LIVES. Now in its third week, the picture is playing in 85 theatres and earned an additional $761K, taking its total domestic gross to $1.9M. Prior to this weekend, it had been the number one film in every theatre where it played but that changed on Friday when Wes Anderson’s ASTEROID CITY from Focus Features opened in six of those theatres.
Anderson has long been an art-house favorite with his eclectic films including THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014), ISLE OF DOGS (2018), and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001). ASTEROID took in $790K at those six theatres in NY and LA, for a spectacular per complex average of $132K. Next week, both films are targeted to expand to a much wider footprint.
All movies this weekend earned $167.0M domestic, compared with $163.7M last year when JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION had a strong second weekend at $59.2M and LIGHTYEAR opened to $50.6M.
WHERE ARE WE AS OF 6/15
The first 22 weeks of 2023 have generated 124% of the box office earned at this same point in 2022, but only 80% compared with 2019.