Not only can The Flash not outrun the DC's latest failures, but another flop could have significant ramifications on Superman: Legacy and James Gunn's future DCU.
Director Andy Muschetti's The Flash earned a quiet $55.1 million domestically during its opening 3-day weekend - only $2 million more than Shazam! Fury of the Gods and $12 million less than Black Adam.
All three of DC's latest releases have already entered (or are entering) "flop" territory.
A telling stat in this analysis is that The Flash's opening weekend would rank dead last amongst the MCU's 32 movies, as newly hired DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn has his hands full trying to thrust the DC universe in the same breath as the MCU.
How Much Should a DC Movie Cost?
Marking another costly DC film that probably won't make a return on investment, The Flash's $220 million budget is the 6th-highest costing DC film.
The full list can be seen below:
- Justice League - $300 Million
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: $300 Million
- Black Adam - $260 Million
- The Dark Knight Rises - $250 Million
- Man of Steel - $225 Million
Based on current tracking, The Flash could lose the studio significant money, especially when factoring in the marketing budget (in addition to the $220 million).
Black Adam, Shazam! 2, and not The Flash have been losers for WB and could change the strategy Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and DC Studios co-CEO Peter Safran will implement in the new DCU beginning with Superman: Legacy.
The studio must stop throwing money at projects, especially for the sake of reshoots and post-production work. Gunn and Safran's pre-planning will be essential for these films to become profitable.
Re-Thinking How to Market the New DCU
The Flash had equally poor and expensive marketing, a costly combo. Troubled star Ezra Miller wasn't present for anything promotional for the film besides a single appearance on the opening night red carpet.
However, not only does this falsely present the film as equal parts Batman and Flash, but Keaton himself wasn't asked to do much promotion of his own through interviews, public appearances, etc.
Burying Miller, who plays two versions of Barry Allen in the film, may have ultimately hurt the film's performance.
Moving forward, promotion for the new DCU will be critical. The DCEU's slate of films is causing more harm to the brand than the studio expected. DC at this point can't even blame "superhero fatigue" because audiences don't seem to be interested in much outside of Elseworlds Batman films.
Expect whoever is cast as Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane in Superman: Legacy to actively promote the film to audiences.
Not even Tom Cruise (known for saving movie theaters in Top Gun: Maverick) praising the film could save The Flash.
Quality over Quantity: A Recipe for Success
The Flash earned an ugly B CinemaScore, confirming what the box office is communicating: audiences aren't connecting with the film.
A 66% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't help, especially when you add on Black Adam's 38% and Shazam! 2's 49% — yikes.
This may put into question how many projects DC Studios will green light and produce. There's no room for major misfires once Superman: Legacy kicks off the new cinematic universe in 2025.
Gunn's late January announcement felt optimistic, and the director, writer, and (now) executive will surely try to execute every DCU project announced.
However, DC's latest films have likely done damage to the brand, meaning producing quality, fan-pleasing films will be more important than ever before.
Moving Past CGI Babies and Mustaches
Despite director Andy Muschietti's best efforts to defend the CGI, anyone who saw The Flash knows that the computer graphics could've been improved.
Sometimes this is a budget issue, leading to incomplete graphics that leave audiences wanting to jump back to James Cameron's Avatar franchise and cleanse in the way of water.
Marvel has had its own CGI woes, particularly in the Disney+ series She-Hulk (is that Shrek or Jennifer Walters?) and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (which could be mistaken for Spy Kids 3D Part 2).
The new DCU must be easy on the eyes. A film could be well written, directed, and acted, but if it's heavily reliant on CGI (which most current comic book movies are) and it's distractingly bad, then audiences will mentally check out.
Gunn's new slate certainly won't shy away from CGI with two Kryptonian films, a humanoid creature, a superteam, and multiple galaxy-protecting Green Lanterns.
On the bright side, Gunn's superhero flicks have been full of computer graphics, but never to the detriment of the film. Rocket Raccoon, Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy), and King Shark (The Suicide Squad) are great examples of CGI strengthening the characters and plot.
Safran and Gunn have a lot of ground to make up in the sphere of the comic book cinematic universes due to the DCEU stumbling towards the finish line, ending with The Flash falling on its face.