Sunday AM Writethrough When New Line/DC’s Shazam: Fury of the Gods hit tracking four weeks ago with a low $35M projection, it was shocking and not shocking to rival distributors. Shocking, because in a spring full of franchise tentpoles, many of which are seeing record opening domestic highs, how can a DC property like Shazam! not keep up with the pack? Not shocking in that — well, it’s a goofy, old Shazam!
Now while it’s possible for a movie to start low in its projections on tracking and swell as the studio spends the bulk of a pic’s P&A in the final lap before its opening, the outlook on Shazam! Fury of the Gods didn’t budge, and now the David F. Sandberg-directed sequel, produced by Warner Bros. newly installed DC cohead Peter Safran, is looking at a $30.5M start in US/Canada as of Sunday AM, off 43% from the first 2019 movie’s $53.5M opening. The sequel also missed its $85M global opening projections with $65.5M
Shazam 2‘s Friday (and previews) at $11.7M is 42% off the first pic’s $20.3M Friday+previews. Even if Shazam 2 benefitted from family matinees and built up to a $35M-$40M opening, it would still be off from the first pic’s stateside start. Realize we live in a marketplace where we are used to seeing superhero sequels outperform the openings of their predecessors.
Audience diagnostics are off for Shazam: Fury of the Gods. The DC Captain Marvel received a B+ CinemaScore to the first title’s A, and pulled in less of the 18-34 demographic than chapter one, 56% to 64%. Audience exits on the first Shazam! were harder than CinemaScore results at 79% positive, 59% definite recommend– the sequel saw similar results at 78% positive, and a 64% recommend. Men over 25 were the biggest quad for Shazam! back in 2019 at 35% and and an 82% grade; part two saw a 40% share of guys over 25, with a lower grade of 77%. Rivals believe that the scores on the first Shazam! weren’t good enough to demand a sequel. Why did New Line make one? Because Shazam! netted a profit of $75M after all ancillaries off a $100M production cost and $105M global marketing spend.
Warners didn’t really drop the ball in marketing Shazam! Fury of the Gods, trotting out the first trailer and the cast at the return-to-in-person San Diego Comic-Con last July. In fact, of those who saw Shazam 2, 18% said the in-theater trailer, and 16% cited the YouTube trailer as the most influential means of marketing. Some sources snipe to me that the materials for Shazam! Fury of the Gods were giddy, and that the conceit of “Everybody is a Shazam” deflates from him being the almighty superhero.
However, that was always the spirit of this B-tier DC superhero, going back to the first film. Also, you can’t fault Warner distribution here for doing their jobs: They protected Shazam 2, getting it away from Avatar: The Way of Water at Christmas so it could have access to Imax and PLF ticket formats this weekend. Those premium tickets repped 36% of the pic’s business this weekend. Imax ticket sales were $2.6M at 401 auditoriums.
Shazam’s inability to fly at the box office has largely to do with the fact that there’s no want-to-see among core DC fans in regards to this sequel. It’s not part of a connective tissue in the DC universe, nor was it ever, and that’s a problem that DC Bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran are looking to fix. They’ve been very public about laying out their new multiverse, and it was never made certain that Shazam would be a definite part of their “Chapter One, Gods and Monsters,”
The exclusion of Shazam has taken away the sheen from what should be a standalone, crowd-pleasing movie. Again, not a must-see for DC fans. In fact, one of the reasons why Shazam was developed over at New Line was because it was a lighter comedy project, and an outlier to the gravitas of Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman. While Gunn and Safran don’t want to simply toss away the character played by Zachary Levi, the actor made it clear to Deadline’s Natalie Sitek at the sequel’s world premiere that if there’s a threequel, “It all comes down to what the people want.”
In wrangling the entire DC universe under one newly revised umbrella, something which Gunn and Safran are confident the previously Walter Hamada-designed The Flash can do on June 16, Gunn exclaimed on the DC press day back in January that “As everyone here probably knows, the history of DC is pretty messed up. It was f***ed up.”
Gunn expounded that day, “There’s the Arrowverse, there was the DC EU, which split and became the Joss Whedon Justice League at one point, became the Snyderverse at the other point, there was Superman and Lois, three is the Reeves verse, there is all these different things. Even us, we came in and did Suicide Squad and that became Peacemaker, and all of sudden Bat Mite is a real guy. No one was minding the mint, they were just giving away IP like they were party favors to any creators that smiled at them. What we’re going to do, from our first project forward is we’re going to be unified.”
Yes, Shazam is a family property, much like Marvel’s Ant-Man. However, Marvel Studios has grown that franchise’s openings to an all-time high of $106.1M with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, because they’ve made the deeper universe character important in the context of a larger universe, thus making it a must-see for fans.
A key driver for that threequel was the feature debut of new MCU baddie Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors, who was introduced in the Disney+ series Loki. In sum, there’s no reason for the audience of The Batman and Spider-Man: No Way Home to go out of their way and spend time with Shazam in part two. He’s just not serious enough for them in regards to the larger canon.
While all of the above might be logical in regards to Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ lackluster opening, there was another inherent element which didn’t work, and that is in the aging up of the pic’s protagonist Billy Batson from a 12-year-old in the 2019 film to a teenager in part two. The first Shazam! charmed in being like a superhero version of the Tom Hanks classic Big, and well, aging up Shazam to teenagedom isn’t as cute. No one was looking for a sequel to superhero Big.
Also, something that needs to be considered, even in this back-to-back tentpole spring market, is the fact that not all moviegoers are back after Covid. While all movies grossed an estimated $94.5M this weekend, +13% from a year ago, we’re still far off from pre-pandemic numbers, -29% from 2018 ($132.8M) and -32% off from 2019 ($139.8M). No, family films aren’t struggling. Puss in Boots 2, Sing 2, and Spider-Man: No Way Home proved that. It’s just that the avid moviegoers have returned, just not at the same frequency. It took two years to break the box office, and it’s going to take two years to build it back.
Top ten markets for Shazam! were LA, NYC, Dallas, Houston, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Antonio and DC. Top ten theaters were AMC Burbank, AMC Disney Springs Orlando, Santikos Palladium San Antonio, Harkins Estrella Falls Phoenix, Santikos Casa Blanca San Antonio, AMC Empire NYC, Regal Warren in Moore, OK, AMC Lincoln Square NYC, Cinemark Town Center in Pharr, TX, Cinemark Tinseltown in El Paso, TX.
Since Shazam! Fury of the Gods missed its $85M global start off a $125M production cost, does it still profit? Marketing costs for the sequel are on par to the first, if not less, as the new Warner Bros Discovery is about promoting their IPs through their owned and operated TV and streaming tentacles at an efficient spend. I’m told by those in the know that it will be pretty tough to get Shazam! Fury of the Gods in the black.
Here’s the top 10 box office as of Sunday AM:
1.) Shazam! Fury of the Gods (NL) 4,071 theaters Fri $11.7M, 3-day $30M/Wk 1
2.) Scream VI (Par) 3,676 (+1) theaters, Fri $5.2M (-73%), Sat $7.4M, Sunday $4.8M, 3-day $17.5M (-61%)/Total $76M/Wk 2
3.) Creed III (UAR) 3,477 (-530) theaters Fri $4.3M (-42%),Sat $6.6M, Sun $4.3M, 3-day $15.3M (-44%)/Total $127.7M/Wk 3
4.) 65 (Sony) 3,405 theaters, Fri $1.575M (-64%), Sat $2.5M, Sun $1.6M, 3-day $5.8M (-53%)/Total $22.4M/Wk 2
5.) Ant-man and the Wasp Quantumania (Dis) 2,650 (-455) theaters, Fri $1.175M (-30%), Sat $1.8M, Sunday $1M, 3-day $4.07M (-43%), Total $205.8M/Wk 5
6.) Cocaine Bear (Uni) 2,687 (-517) theaters, Fri $1.09M (-38%), Sat $1.7M Sun $1M 3-day $3.87M (-39%)/Total $58.4M/Wk 4
7.) Jesus Revolution (LG) 2,354 theaters (-165), Fri $960K (-30%), Sat $1.4M, Sun $1.1M, 3-day $3.5M (-32%)/Total $45.4M/ Wk 4
8.) Champions (Foc) 3,039 (+9) theaters, Fri $860K (-53%), Sat $1.36M, Sun $810K 3-day $3M (-41%)/Total $10.5M/Wk 2
9.) Avatar: The Way of Water (Dis) 1,190 theaters (-485), Fri $508K (-17%), Sat $918K, Sun $502K 3-day $1.92M (-28%)Total $678.1M /Wk 14
10.) Puss in Boots: Last Wish (Uni) 1,735 theaters (-81), Fri $430K (+21%), Sat $630K, Sun $450K, 3-day $1.5M (-14%), Total $182.5M/Wk 13
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