The Flash Movie Can't Outrun DC's Failures (Box Office)

By David Thompson Updated:
Flash Superman Batman

After recent DC films' lackluster trips to the box office, it looks like The Flash may be doomed for a similar fate.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods to date has grossed just $133.4 million worldwide, the lowest in DCEU history

That rocky start for DC comes off of a messy Black Adam release in November 2022. The film ultimately grossed $391.3 million worldwide, but conflicting reports (even from Dwayne Johnson himself) put into question whether the film was profitable or not for the studio.

Black Adam's massive $260 million production budget didn't leave much room for Warner Bros. (WB) to make much (if any) money from the film.

The Flash Box Office Tracking Update

Michael Keaton's Batman, The Flash

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that The Flash is tracking for an underwhelming $70 million domestic opening weekend. 

This would come in considerably under the $93 million Justice League earned in 2017, a film that disappointed fans and pundits worldwide.

On the contrary, Box Office Pro's latest tracking has Andy Muschietti's first superhero flick earning between $115-$140 million during its opening weekend.

That's a significant discrepancy between the two outlets, which should be concerning for Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav

The Father's Day weekend should bring in a lot of audience members, which the studio likely expects. This is especially true considering the overwhelming praise the film has gotten from the likes of Tom Cruise and DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn calling it “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.”

Warner Bros.' DC Problem

Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opening to a solid but not extraordinary $118 million, superhero films can have a domino effect.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quatumania was poorly received by fans when it was released in February and grossed the lowest worldwide total among the franchise's three films, a significant failure as this was certainly expected to be the highest-earning Ant-Man film.

It's hard to deny this played a role in Vol. 3's relatively slow start (Vol. 2 opened to $146.5 million). This could have been due to superhero fatigue or audiences being less rushed to see Marvel's next film after being scorned by the previous one.

A parallel scenario may be brewing over at DC. The aforementioned Black Adam and Shazam! 2 releases aren't growing any momentum toward The Flash.

Dwayne Johnson promoted Black Adam feverishly on social media, specifically to his 381 million Instagram subscribers, yet it only opened to $67 million in North America. 

It was a passion project for Johnson, one of Hollywood's biggest personalities, and it opened to less than Eternals, a Marvel "flop."

In a way, DC has found more success with what's being now coined Elseworlds stories like Joker and The Batman that take on a more serious tone and are contained narratively. 

The DCEU was, has, and will be lost, and the studio knows it. That's why James Gunn was hired as its savior to make DC more — in terms of success — more comparable to the MCU.

Resetting the DC Universe

The Flash, Batman V Superman

Since 2013's Man of Steel ushered in a new era of DC films, not much has gone according to plan. The 2016 mega-hyped clash, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was a letdown critically and by many fans.

While it did well at the box office, it set up 2017's Justice League (which should have been competitive with Marvel's Avengers films) for failure. 

Poor word of mouth also hurt DC's most valuable superteam, and ultimately, director Zack Snyder was able to release his own version in 2021 after a wave of fan support calling for WB to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut.

It's not fair to compare this scattered (and shattered) universe to Marvel Studios' Phase 1-3 run from the years 2008-2019, all led by the same man: President Kevin Feige.

One of Feige's most trusted (and successful) directors, James Gunn, is now set to pull DC out of the depths of despair and begin anew with Superman: Legacy on July 11, 2025.

The lack of direction leads to The Flash "reset[ing] many things" in the DCEU, according to Gunn. This lack of direction and success is a reason why hitting the reboot button is key and one of the reasons The Flash may open to less than many were expecting.

(Mis)handling the Ezra Miller Controversy

The elephant in the room during the entire marketing process has been the lead actor, Ezra Miller, having been arrested several times since the film was shot. 

During March and April 2022, Miller gained significant media attention due to multiple arrests during their stay in Hawaii. 

In the middle of March, they received a citation for impeding a highway, and the police described their behavior as uncooperative as they refused to leave the area and persistently obstructed a sidewalk.

Subsequently, Miller was taken into custody later that month and faced charges of disorderly conduct after their disruptive actions at a karaoke bar in Hawaii.

During the month of April, Miller faced another arrest in Hawaii, this time for second-degree assault as they supposedly declined to vacate a residence.

In August 2022, Miller faced charges of felony burglary in Vermont after being accused of taking "several bottles of alcohol" from an unoccupied residence back in May.

Additionally, in August, law enforcement made attempts to deliver an emergency order to a 25-year-old mother with three young children. The order demanded the removal of the children from Miller's residence and the mother's care.

Later that month Miller released a statement, saying, "I now understand that I am suffering complex mental health issues and have begun ongoing treatment. I want to apologize to everyone that I have alarmed and upset with my past behavior...

Meanwhile, since 2023 began, The Flash marketing has been in full force, with trailers heavily featuring Michael Keaton's Batman as well as Miller's Flash.

However, there hasn't been a solution to the Miller problem from a public relations perspective nor has WB been proactive about the situation.

Recently, director Andy Muschietti sang Miller's praises as Barry Allen, saying that he doesn't "think there’s anyone that can play that character as well as they did."

This puts in doubt the popular idea that Miller would be replaced/recast in a potential The Flash 2 and the first chapter of the new DCU: Gods and Monsters.

Controversy, previous failures, and planning to hit the reset button are all working against The Flash at the box office. 

Find out if Michael Keaton returning as Batman can save The Flash when it races into theaters on Friday, June 16.

- In This Article: The Flash
Release Date
June 16, 2023
- About The Author: David Thompson
As an editor, writer, and podcast host, David is a key member of The Direct. He is an expert at covering topics like Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and business-related news following the box office and streaming.