Black Adam Fails To Change The Hierarchy Of Profits In The DCU [Updated]

Update: Sources close to Warner Bros. have indicated to /Film that Variety's initial report is inaccurate, and that the break-even point for "Black Adam" is $425 million, not $600 million. While the film is certainly not the rousing success anyone involved was hoping for, reports of its box office failure have been exaggerated, and it still stands a chance of breaking even when the final numbers roll in (especially with PVOD taken into account). Our original story follows.

Another day, another "Black Adam" story. Improbable as it might seem, the Dwayne Johnson-led DC superhero film might wind up losing money, despite being #1 at the box office three weeks in a row.

By now, you've likely heard ad nauseam all about how "Black Adam" was supposed to change "the hierarchy of power" in the DC Universe. The movie opened in U.S. theaters back on October 21, 2022, and over the last seven weeks, it has continued its global rollout, opening in countries like China in November and Japan just last Friday. Despite Johnson's star power, a new report from Variety indicates that "Black Adam" has only had an international haul of $387 million thus far.

This sounds good by pandemic standards, but "Black Adam" was reportedly made on a budget of $195 to $200 million. The usual marketing costs for a superhero tentpole of its type would be $100 million. However, Warner Bros. says it reduced that to $80 million due to the ongoing challenge of luring people out to the multiplex while Covid is still a factor. Half of the ticket sales for "Black Adam" kick back to theater owners, which means that it would, by some estimates, need to earn about $600 million to break even. Yet it's looking like the movie's theatrical gross will be more in the $400 million range (meaning the studio would, again, stand to incur about half the loss, or $100 million).

Contrast this with that other recent superhero film with the word "black" in the title, Marvel's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," which raked in $331 million in just three days. This makes it seem clear that the hierarchy of power hasn't changed as much as Johnson or anyone hoped it would.

The hierearchy of VOD power

The silver lining for "Black Adam" is that it has been doing well on demand. A month after its theatrical release, on November 22, 2022, the movie hit premium VOD platforms like iTunes, where it can currently be rented for $19.99. Since then, "Black Adam" has, as Forbes reports, been leading the VOD charts, despite its underwhelming theatrical numbers. The availability of it on demand may have even contributed some to it falling off at the box office, though reviews for it were also not great, with /Film's own Witney Seibold calling it "a superhero movie, but worse" in his review.

You have to wonder if the onset of superhero fatigue, which once seemed greatly exaggerated in the face of theatrical revenue to the contrary, might not also have played a factor in the lack of runaway success for "Black Adam." For years, DC has been chasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but notwithstanding "Wakanda Forever" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home," the overall reception to Phase Four of the MCU hasn't been all that great, either. Maybe audiences are just finally getting tired of seeing the same cookie-cutter comic book movies.