The Marvels Just Hit a Disastrous Box Office Milestone for the MCU

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
The Marvels Brie Larson

The Marvels was one of the MCU's biggest box office flops ever, so much so it marked a historically abysmal milestone for Marvel Studios.

The Marvels' Historic Box Office Disaster Explained

Disney has been betting big on the MCU since the success of Avengers: Endgame, with Shang-Chi reportedly being the only Multiverse Saga release with a budget under $200 million, supposedly coming in at $150 million.

The House of Mouse had high hopes for The Marvels after, according to Forbes, cashing out $274.8 million on the production. Of course, this was done with a $55 million subsidy from the U.K. for filming the movie there, bringing the actual spend down to around $219.8 million.

With its theatrical release now over, the movie grossed a total of just $206.06 million at the worldwide box office, $84.5 million of which was earned domestically. As such, Captain Marvel 2 represents an abysmal milestone for the MCU, being the first entry to have its final global box office haul be less than its budget.

For context, no other MCU movie has come even close to this level of financial disaster as the significant majority of Marvel Studios' previous titles have been able to at least double their budget at the box office.

The Marvels also joins an exclusive club of just five MCU movies that grossed less than twice their reported production budget, the rest of which were released either early in the MCU or had to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global box office hauls for all five movies in this club can be seen below:

Is The Marvels as Bad as It Seems for Disney & Marvel?

Brie Larson in The Marvels in costume

While it may initially seem as if The Marvels only lost around $13 million in theaters when comparing its $219.8 million price tag to the $206.06 million gross, the reality of this theatrical disaster is far worse. 

The $219.8 million spent was exclusively to cover production, with likely over $140 million more dropped on marketing if it were to have similar costs to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - via Deadline.

Not to mention, movie theaters also take a slice of the box office gross, usually estimated to be around half, meaning Disney was probably left with just over $100 million to take home from the Captain Marvel sequel.

So, The Marvels appears to have lost Disney and Marvel Studios around $255 million looking exclusively at the figures from its theatrical run.

Luckily, much of this revenue ought to be recouped in home entertainment sales - including digital and physical - along with streaming deals like the amount Disney pays itself to put its movies on Disney+.

Looking at the 2022 MCU movies (the last year for which the profit and loss data is currently available), Deadline reported home entertainment and streaming totals ranged between Thor 4's $300 million and Doctor Strange 2's $340 million.

Only time will tell if The Marvels' at-home arrival can compensate for a disappointing theatrical haul, but these figures could indicate Marvel Studios may still be able to turn a small profit or at least break even on its $219.8 million spend.

Why Did The Marvels Fail So Badly?

Many will be quick to paint The Marvels' failure as an instant sign of superhero fatigue, especially after the tough year the DCEU had at the box office.

But if that was the case, how did both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Across the Spider-Verse turn over such impressive numbers over the summer? 

Here are just a few of the key reasons behind The Marvels' struggles:

Mediocre Reviews

Early critic reviews dropped for the Captain Marvel sequel shortly before release, and things were not looking particularly great. The Rotten Tomatoes rating, while still "Fresh," marked the third-lowest in MCU history at just 62%.

The release came around, and The Marvels didn't land especially great with fans either, tying the record for the lowest CinemaScore in the MCU with a "B" - the same as Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania and Eternals.

In an age where there is so much superhero content from Marvel and DC, fans of the genre have far more to choose from, meaning they don't necessarily need to watch every new release to get their fix in the way they once did. This has left the word-of-mouth for a movie being more important than ever at the box office.

MCU Troubles & Superhero Fatigue

The MCU may still be the biggest franchise in the world with every new movie and show receiving viral attention. But as reception becomes increasingly middling amid declining box office returns, the term "superhero fatigue" has been thrown around more than ever in the last year.

The Infinity Saga was able to keep fans' attention from beginning to end as the mystery of Thanos and the Infinity Stones continued to brew. But there is no denying interest has not been as high in the larger MCU story throughout the Multiverse Saga, leaving viewers less motivated to see every last project.

The Streaming Effect

One also has to consider the post-pandemic streaming push as a factor, with an increasing volume of audiences waiting to enjoy movies at home. 

As The Marvels' marketing didn't show any major signs of being exceptional, urgent, spoiler-heavy, or MCU-significant viewing, many likely opted to hold out for the at-home or upcoming Disney+ release, skipping out on the theatrical run.

Disney+ Connections

The Marvels perhaps marked the biggest crossover yet of streaming and the big-screen, bringing together a theatrical hero with two from Disney+. 

While this team-up may be an enthralling premise for diehard fans, those who haven't seen Ms. Marvel or WandaVision may not be as enthusiastic, or may even be concerned they won't understand the movie without seeing either show.

Those concerned prospective audiences would be somewhat right, as the sequel does connect to the two Disney+ series in some, mostly minor ways - although Kamala Khan's super-powered bangle does prove central to the story.

The Captain Marvel Issue

Brie Larson's Captain Marvel has also proved to be a rather divisive hero throughout her MCU tenure, with many fans taking issue with the character.

While some may point to her billion-dollar-grossing 2019 debut as an indicator that isn't a factor, Captain Marvel undeniably benefited from its two-month proximity to Avengers: Endgame and being the MCU's first female-led film.

Between the controversy surrounding the character and being the sequel to Captain Marvel, a somewhat unpopular MCU movie, The Marvels had plenty going against it, which may leave Captain Marvel 3 in doubt.

The Marvels is available for digital purchase now and will arrive on Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD on February 13.

- In This Article: The Marvels
Release Date
November 10, 2023
- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.