How Will Captain Marvel 2 Do? A Box Office Prediction for The Marvels
Recently writing about the pattern of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) grosses from Thor 4 forward I found myself hitting on the subject not just of what it portended for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, but also The Marvels, still half a year away — enough so that it seemed worth giving that its own post.
Ant-Man 3 was the precedent that seemed to me most relevant to Guardians of the Galaxy 3, given that it is likewise a “lesser” Marvel franchise coming out not quite three months after the other movie, with the estimates for its opening weekend domestic gross strongly suggesting a similar course (a rough one-third drop in inflation-adjusted, real terms from what the last film made leaving it with an approximately $700 million gross).
By contrast Black Panther 2 seemed a more relevant parallel for The Marvels, in part because of the parallels between the preceding films. Captain Marvel, like Black Panther, was the first film in a new series; put out during Marvel’s Phase Three peak (2018–2019); released in the early part of the year (March 8, as against February 16, a mere three weeks off); touted as an event (indeed, a milestone!) because of its protagonist’s ethnicity or gender; and similarly made over a billion dollars at the box office (back when a dollar was officially worth a good deal more than it is today).*
Fast-forward to today, and one notes that Black Panther 2 was put out amid declining excitement about the MCU in the wake of Phase Four’s underperformance; put out in November; and simply did not have the cachet of the first because a sequel to a movie supposedly important as a “first” simply could not be an event in the same way. (One might add that in becoming “female-led” Black Panther 2 became in yet another way even more like the upcoming Captain Marvel 2.)
Black Panther 2 ended up making half of what Black Panther did. It does not seem unreasonable to anticipate Captain Marvel 2 doing the same on the basis of those parallels, which would mean a gross of some $600-$700 million.
Moreover, it should be noted that Captain Marvel 2 has liabilities Black Panther 2 (even with the loss of a well-liked star) did not.
There is the divided reaction to the first Captain Marvel film.
There is the tie-in with a Disney streaming show that not everyone Marvel Studios must be hoping will come see the film will have watched (which hurt Dr. Strange 2).
And there is arguably greater doubt about the movie — with the MCU racking up further underperformances (Black Panther 2 included in the view of those disposed to see it as such, and the unquestioned disappointment of Ant-Man 3, while Guardians of the Galaxy may go the same way), and the decision to bump the release of The Marvels from July to November not helping.
The result is that The Marvels may suffer an even steeper drop than Black Panther 2 did, possibly slipping below the $600 million mark to rival Ant-Man 3 in its earnings.
For the time being we have not heard much about what the movie ultimately cost, only partial numbers released to date, while one can only wonder as to just how big and expensive the post-production job that prompted the more than three months’ delay is. But it is worth recalling that the original Captain Marvel saw Disney-Marvel spend over $450 million on the film (with $175 million just the net production cost). Sequels are rarely cheaper to make than the original, while the extended post-production, and the possibility of a more than usually aggressive promotional push to help prop up the good Marvel name(s) in which Disney has so much invested, would make a still heavier outlay plausible. Should the movie after all that end up with $600 million, or even less, from the theatrical run, its profits will not just be a long way from the $400 million+ the studio may have made from the first film (and expected of the second!), but the return negative.
Of course, a lot could happen in the six months between now, and when the movie will hit theaters, with The Flash an object lesson in just how much the expectations (or at least, the press’ expectations) can change in such a short period. Yet this is the pattern I see as relevant for the time being — while, as we are on the subject of that other movie, it seems to me that people are swinging from one extreme to the other, if not regarding the film’s quality, then at least its likely box office. Even a better-than-expected Flash film, and some positive buzz and word-of-mouth, is likely to boost it only so much in a crowded summer. The same would go for Captain Marvel 2, a very great gap existing between the numbers I am talking about here, and the $1.3-$1.4 billion grossed by the original, or even just the billion-dollar mark the MCU has found ever more elusive in even this inflationary era.
* Arguably the view of Black Panther as a “milestone” was more important in the U.S. than elsewhere. It actually ended up the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S. in 2018, outdoing even Avengers: Infinity War with its $700 million domestic gross ($800 million+ today), but performed more like other Marvel movies abroad (pulling in just 48 percent of its take internationally). Still, the first Black Panther’s international gross was markedly greater than the sequel’s, some $647 million ($750 million in 2022 terms) to Black Panther 2’s $405 million.