With $3.205 million on Tuesday (+53% from Monday and -35% from last Tuesday), Shazam! has earned $99.530 million in 12 days of domestic release. So, barring a fluke, it should be past $100 million domestic by the end of this sentence. The film had a second-weekend hold comparable (if you throw the sneak previews into the opening weekend totals) to Captain America: The Winter Soldier or (if you don’t) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It may or may not repeat at the top of the box office this weekend, depending on how well The Curse of Llorona performs. Both WB/New Line films are projected to earn around $16 million this weekend, although an over performance by the “not necessarily the Conjuring Universe” horror flick wouldn’t shock me.
If things go well, Shazam! will have around $103.5 million by Thursday and over/under $120 million by the end of the weekend. It’s still looking like an over/under $150 million domestic cume for the $90 million DC Films flick. Yes, that’ll be the lowest-grossing (by far) DC Films movie thus far but it’s also the cheapest (by far). Presuming Joker doesn’t pull a Venom this October (and I’m presuming it won’t, due to the R-rating, the action-lite concept and the fact that it’s not remotely the first Joker flick), it will also end up being a case of small risk equaling comparatively small rewards. Presuming Birds of Prey doesn’t cost a gazillion bucks, we’ll have to wait until Wonder Woman 1984 for a mega-budget franchise play.
That may be a coincidence, but DC Films following up Aquaman with three much smaller (and quite diverse in terms of content) superhero/supervillain flicks between it and the Gal Gadot sequel is interesting. I am going to assume that Matt Reeves The Batman and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad will be big budget affairs, but what if they are not? What if Wonder Woman 1984 is followed up by DC Super Pets and then two expensive-but-not-absurd superhero flicks (with The Trench tossed in somewhere amid them)? What if Reeves delivers an over/under $110 million Dark Knight Detective flick while Gunn delivers a Suicide Squad sequel that costs closer to $120 million than $180 million? And then Aquaman 2 delivers the mega-budget goodness in late 2022.
That is entirely speculative, but any brand that offers The Trench and DC Super Pets amid Batman movies and Wonder Woman sequels is one that is clearly willing to play with the notion of brand-specific event movies within the overall IP. Moreover, as we’ve seen over the last year, Warner Bros. is not remotely reliant on their DC Comics movies (or their J.K. Rowling flicks). Last year they had A Star Is Born ($425 million on a $35 million budget), Ready Player One ($582 million for $175 million), The Meg ($530 million/$130 million), Crazy Rich Asians ($238 million/$30 million), Ocean’s 8 ($297 million/$70 million), Rampage ($428 million/$120 million) and The Nun ($356 million/$22 million). Aquaman soaring past $1 billion-plus was essentially the cherry on top.
This year saw The LEGO Movie 2 underperform, but Shazam! is doing well enough and I’m expecting Detective Pikachu (tracking out tomorrow) to become the biggest video game-based movie of all time, potentially by a lot. We’ll see if Godzilla: King of the Monsters can become the first non-Jurassic monster movie to top $600 million worldwide and if Annabelle Comes Home continues the Conjuring winning streak. It: Chapter 2 is a clear home run even if it doesn’t come anywhere near the first film’s $700 million total, Both Andrea Berloff’s The Kitchen (starring Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy and Elizabeth Moss) and Todd Phillips’ Joker will try to be period-piece crime dramas that can go toe-to-toe (in terms of quality) with Netflix and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
I don’t know what’s going to happen after this year, both in terms of Walt Disney’s ability to dominate the theatrical marketplace and how the streaming wars will impact the theatrical output from the three biggest theatrical studios. But I do know that, especially after this year, Walt Disney will be ever-more reliant on the MCU and animation while both Warner Bros. and Universal/Comcast will have proven they don’t need superheroes and toons to get folks into the theaters. This isn’t about better/best or bigger/biggest. However, looking down the line, that Warner Bros. has future-proofed itself against any kind of post-Endgame superhero slowdown and has scored “event movie”-level hits in stand-alone flicks and potential franchise-starters that aren’t connected to Batman or Harry Potter.
So the big triumph of Shazam! isn’t just that a $90 million superhero flick that earned rave reviews and strong buzz will flirt with $150 million domestic and $400 million worldwide. The triumph is that the performance of Shazam! wasn’t remotely a deal-breaker to the Dream Factory’s overall theatrical bottom-line. They can survive whatever happens to the Fantastic Beasts saga and they can survive the loss of the LEGO franchise because they aren’t remotely dependent on those key pieces of IP. Even DC Films, once viewed as the great savior of their post-Hobbit/Harry Potter slate, is now just a solid brand amid a varied slate. Yes, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam “saved” DC Films. But the true irony is that Warner Bros. saved itself first.