Ant-Man’s shrinking is a problem for Disney and cinemas

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the smallest superhero doesn’t seem to have many legs. This is a growing problem for the Mouse House and for those presenting its tariff.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is the 23rd theatrical film Disney has produced and released from its Marvel franchise. That’s not counting the three Sony-produced “Spider-Man” movies that are considered part of the franchise’s cinematic universe, or the five Marvel movies released before 2012’s “The Avengers,” which marked the first movie. produced by Disney. exited after acquiring Marvel for $4.3 billion in 2009. Still, Disney’s end wasn’t a bad one; his own Marvel movies to date have grossed more than $22 billion at the global box office, according to industry tracking site The Numbers.

But keeping up to date with a franchise that now averages three theatrical releases a year — plus eight series so far for the Disney+ streaming service — is becoming a challenge. The latest “Ant-Man” seemingly overcame the second-lowest scores from critics in the Marvel franchise to score a strong opening weekend of $104 million domestically after its February 17 debut. But that doesn’t add up, as the film’s second weekend slipped 70% from the first — the biggest such drop yet for a Marvel movie, according to data from Box Office Mojo. The comparison doesn’t include the President’s Day Monday holiday, though the holiday weekend may still have pumped up the movie’s opening traffic.

No long-running entertainment property is free of misfires. But the third “Ant-Man” movie is just the latest sign that Disney’s flagship franchise may be tired. The previous five Marvel films averaged a 66% decline at the domestic box office in the second week, 10 percentage points lower than Disney’s top five Marvel film average. And the total worldwide haul of the latter two – “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” – are down 36% and 11% respectively from previous films with these characters. It should be noted that “Black Panther” suffered the loss of its lead actor with the untimely passing of star Chadwick Boseman before the second film.

A weakened Marvel franchise wouldn’t be good news for movie theater operators, who are counting on a more robust release slate this year to help the industry recover from the pandemic. Cinemark chief executive Sean Gamble said on the company’s earnings call on Friday that he expects this year’s release pipeline to be between 100 and 105 titles, which which is lower than the 130 typically released each year before the pandemic, but remains 30% above the last. anemic pace of the year. This includes four DC films from Warner Bros. Discovery,

who is seriously trying to revive this superhero franchise. But so far, DC movies have averaged less than half of Marvel’s national average per movie, leaving theater operators still heavily reliant on strong screenings of “Ant-Man” and the other two. Marvel movies in the works this year.

The timing of all of this is really not ideal for Disney, which is scrambling to cut costs and boost profits after facing the prospect of a proxy battle earlier this month. Part of that plan involves the company reducing its efforts in general entertainment to “look more into our franchises,” according to new CEO Bob Iger during the company’s Feb. 8 earnings call.

But Mr. Iger also conceded during that call that creating content for franchises such as Marvel has become “extraordinarily expensive.” And the recent proxy challenge included the involvement of Marvel President Ike Perlmutter, who thinks the company spent too much money. Mr. Iger isn’t the only executive having to do more with less these days, but making better superhero blockbusters for less money would still be a heroic feat.

Write to Dan Gallagher at

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