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    The Marvels’ Box Office Struggle: A Critical Moment for Marvel Studios

    The lackluster debut of “The Marvels” marks a critical juncture for Marvel Studios, the cinematic powerhouse that has dominated the box office since the advent of Iron Man in 2008. Over the November 10-12 weekend, the film premiered to a mere $46.1 million in North America, the poorest opening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s history, despite the franchise amassing over $30 billion in global ticket sales across 33 installments. The film faced harsh audience exit scores and a mediocre B CinemaScore.

    This stumble isn’t an isolated incident but rather a symptom of quality control issues within Marvel. The trend emerged as Kevin Feige’s team intensified its efforts in producing streaming shows. Both “Eternals” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania” received B CinemaScores, and viewers expressed difficulty in keeping up with the expanding array of Disney+ shows contributing to the overarching MCU narrative.

    Behind the scenes, Marvel Studios and Disney were already aware of “The Marvels” impending challenges. There was a realization that a reassessment of their theatrical tentpoles was necessary. On November 8, Disney’s Bob Iger acknowledged a loss of focus in the movie empire, attributing it to prioritizing quantity over quality, a directive that came during his tenure, not Bob Chapek’s. This shift affected Marvel’s movies significantly.

    A day later, Marvel and Disney announced a reduction in the number of superhero films slated for release in 2024 from three to one. Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds’ “Deadpool 3” became the sole offering, set to premiere on July 26 instead of May 3. The film, featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, is Disney’s first R-rated production since acquiring 20th Century Fox, and it’s touted as a multi-verse spanning feature setting the stage for future Avengers movies.

    Meanwhile, “Captain America: New World Order” faced a nine-month delay to February 14, 2025, allowing additional shooting time. “Thunderbolts,” starring Florence Pugh and Sebastian Stan, shifted from December 20, 2024, to July 25, 2025. “Blade,” featuring Mahershala Ali, experienced a nine-month delay, moving from February 14, 2025, to November 7, 2025. Both “Blade” and “Thunderbolts” faced production setbacks during the writers’ strike in May.

    “The Marvels” itself deviates from the standard sequel, merging characters in an unconventional narrative. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is joined by breakout star Iman Vellani from Disney+’s “Ms. Marvel” and Teyonah Parris from “WandaVision” as the grown-up Monica Rambeau. This approach, reminiscent of Marvel’s past successes, raises questions about diluting the product and offering similar characters and stories on Disney+.

    The notable success of “Captain Marvel” in 2019, grossing $1.13 billion worldwide, was preceded by strategic teasers in Avengers films. However, the decision to deviate from a straightforward sequel in “The Marvels” has garnered criticism for potentially diminishing the brand.

    This downturn for Marvel comes at a time when DC, traditionally experiencing ups and downs, faced a lackluster performance with “The Flash,” which debuted to $55 million domestically and reached $270.6 million globally this summer. Comscore box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian emphasizes that the uneven performance of superhero films should serve as a wake-up call for the industry in terms of conception, execution, and marketing moving forward.

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