There has been plenty of pessimism about Captain Marvel 2 in recent weeks — as many an analysis of the available data shows, apparently for excellent reason. Films made from the longtime templates for blockbusters in our era — like big-budget high-concept franchise-based sci-fi action films — have been flopping right and left, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe consistently underperforming since at least Thor 4 four movies back. Moreover, were these precedents not worrying enough in themselves the early box office tracking for the film has produced expectations of, for that type of film, a very poor opening weekend — one in the $45-$62 million range, which is to say, even at the high end of the range, less in real terms than the original Captain Marvel took in on opening day.*
Is there, then, any reason to think the film might do better than disastrously? The best reason I can think of is that hits lately are less front-loaded than they used to be, such that they are displaying the kind of legs that redeem a weak opening, with the prior MCU film worth remarking. Guardians of the Galaxy 3’s first Friday-to-Sunday gross was a letdown, but the movie proved “leggier” than expected in slightly better than tripling that opening weekend gross.
If Captain Marvel 2 has an opening weekend closer to the high end of the range and triples that over its run, it would beat Boxoffice Pro’s projection — blasting past the $156 million now discussed as the (fairly low) high end of the range it calculated to surpass the $180 million mark. Should the movie quadruple that figure, as many films have done this year, its gross would enter the range of $250 million. And should it quintuple its opening weekend ticket sales the way Elemental did, even starting with the weakest opening projected for it the movie would still blow past the $200 million mark, and at the high end of the range, surpass the $300 million mark, and in the process come to look much, much less like a flop. Indeed, especially were the international gross to correspond to this (so that the global gross is 2.65 times the domestic gross), the movie would end up within striking distance of $800 million, at which point, on the basis of the currently reported outlays for the film, it could end up not just profitable, but one of the more profitable films of the year.
Of course, if the hits are less front-loaded and showing longer legs the flops open weakly — and collapse, as The Flash did (the movie ending up with that weak debut accounting for more than half of all it ever made in the U.S.). This leaves the question of why the movie might — or might not — end up a leggy hit rather than a buckling flop. Where “might” is concerned what the movie seems to have going for it is that if anticipation for it does not seem very strong, the anticipation for the other movies scheduled to come out over the same stretch of the year is less strong than that — Fandango’s poll telling us that Captain Marvel 2 is doing about as well that way as any movie in the next two months, with the second most-anticipated movie (and closest competition Captain Marvel has), Aquaman 2, coming out six weeks later. The significance of weak competition should not be underestimated, especially in a time of year in which movies show more box office staying power than tends to be the case in the summer season.
Where the possibility of making this happen is concerned what those hopeful for the film might see as most likely to give the movie its chance is the public’s finding Captain Marvel 2 a “pleasant surprise” after the way it has been talked down (which would be the extreme opposite of the way The Flash was talked up so insanely it could not but disappoint). It may also be that the audience will find themselves in the mood for a “silly” Marvel movie at this point, to laugh rather than sit through a played-out repetition of the familiar formulas — and perhaps also find that this one is a better put-together silly movie than Thor 4. (Audience affection for Thor 4 seems to have badly undermined by tonal consistency as it went from the dark horror movie stuff with Gorr the God Butcher to broad comedy and back.) Just avoiding that, and keeping the movie mercifully brief for an audience impatient with lumbering three-hour epics, could work to Captain Marvel 2’s advantage.
Still, if a relatively happy outcome for Captain Marvel 2 does not seem wholly outside the range of possibility the movie seems to have an uphill battle ahead of it — on which you can expect to read more right here.
* Captain Marvel took in $61.7 million on the day of release back in March 2019, which adjusted for inflation using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index works out to $75 million.