‘The Flash’ and ‘Elemental’ trip over box office hurdles

The much-hyped superhero flick, ‘The Flash’, starring Ezra Miller, and Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ both tripped over the finish line this past weekend, failing to ignite the summer blockbuster season as they were once expected to.

‘The Flash’, despite outpacing ‘Elemental’, could only muster up a $55 million debut, while ‘Elemental’ trailed behind with a paltry $29.5 million.

These lackluster performances, falling short of already modest expectations, are particularly disappointing given the hefty $200 million production and $100 million marketing costs that accompanied each film​​.

As Warner Bros. and newly appointed DC Studios co-chief, James Gunn, were hard at work to sell ‘The Flash’ as “one of the greatest superhero movies ever made,” audiences seemed to disagree.

The lukewarm reception, reflected in the tepid “B” CinemaScore from opening weekend crowds, suggests that the film did not quite live up to the hype. Now, with a string of high-profile releases around the corner, ‘The Flash’ faces an uphill battle to recover in the coming weeks​1​.

There are a few potential culprits for the film’s underwhelming debut:

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One may be the recent announcement of a DC universe reboot by James Gunn, which could have created uncertainty about the film’s place in the DC timeline.

Two, Ezra Miller’s legal troubles and assault allegations, which led to a quieter promotional push for the film, could have also played a role.

Three, the possibility of superhero movie fatigue among audiences cannot be dismissed. After all, even the fastest man alive can’t outrun a weary public.

The underwhelming performance of ‘The Flash’ at the box office appears to fall in line with a recent pattern of superhero flicks failing to meet expectations. This unfortunate trend, underscored by ‘The Flash’s’ dismal debut, has been the subject of much industry scrutiny. David A. Gross, a reputable figure from the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, voiced his concerns about the superhero film’s weak three-day opening. Gross’s analysis suggests that ‘The Flash’ didn’t just fall short, but staggered significantly when compared to similar superhero movie openings that eventually racked up impressive global totals.

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In making his comparison, Gross called to mind the successes of 2015’s ‘Ant-Man’ and 2018’s ‘Aquaman’, two films that, despite their less than stellar openings, managed to rally significantly. ‘Ant-Man’ opened to a decent $57 million, but its persistent performance allowed it to amass an impressive $519 million worldwide by the end of its run. Similarly, ‘Aquaman’ debuted to $67.4 million and, riding the wave of positive reviews and audience interest, soared to finish with a whopping $1.15 billion globally.

These superhero successes demonstrated the potential of the genre, painting a picture of a box office journey that starts slow but builds momentum over time, culminating in substantial worldwide earnings.

However, Gross expressed his doubts about ‘The Flash’ following a similar trajectory. His observation, summarized as “we do not see that here,” implies a lack of confidence in ‘The Flash’s’ ability to replicate the success of its predecessors. The comparison serves to highlight the disparities between ‘The Flash’ and previous superhero hits, casting a shadow over the film’s future potential and spotlighting its current underperformance.

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It also underscores the growing concern within the industry that the golden age of superhero movies might be on the decline, or at the very least, that not all heroes wear profitable capes.

Internationally, ‘The Flash’ didn’t fare much better, garnering a meager $75 million from 78 markets. This brings the film’s global tally to $139 million, which, unless fortunes change dramatically, may position ‘The Flash’ alongside Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Black Adam’ in terms of financial disappointment.

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The latter, despite a $200 million budget, opened to $67 million and failed to reach $400 million globally, ultimately incurring losses in its theatrical run​​.

The disheartening debuts of ‘The Flash’ and ‘Elemental’ signal a potential shift in audience tastes, or at the very least, a call for a change in strategy for studios.

Whether it’s the result of a weary audience, the controversy surrounding the lead actor, or an impending universe reboot, one thing is clear – not even the allure of high-speed superheroes or magical elements can guarantee a win in the box office race.