Shazam! Fury Of The Gods Is Heading For A Less-Than-Super $35-40 Million Opening Weekend

When even Marvel Cinematic Universe movies like "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" are starting to struggle at the box office, it might be a sign that superhero fatigue is finally settling in. If so, it looks like the next casualty is "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," which debuts in theaters this weekend and grossed a relatively meager $3.4 million from Thursday previews, compared to the $5.9 million Thursday that the first "Shazam!" enjoyed.

According to Variety, that puts the Zachary Levi-led sequel on track for a $35 to $40 million opening weekend, which would be significantly down from the $53.5 million debut of "Shazam!" despite the second movie having a slightly bigger budget. Variety reports that both movies were made for around $100 million, but Rolling Stone puts the budget for "Fury of the Gods!" at $125 million, and director David F. Sandberg has indicated that he had more money to spend on this one.

Either number would still be on the lower end of budgets for superhero movies, and a $40 million opening weekend would not be a total disaster for "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," especially if the movie performs well overseas and manages a decent hold in its second weekend. But unlike the generally well-received first movie, "Fury of the Gods" is launching from a pad of mixed reviews, with its Rotten Tomatoes score currently standing at 54%. If audiences feel the same way, poor word of mouth could hurt the movie in the days and weeks to come.

The universe is rebooting, please stand by

After the success of "The Avengers" in 2012, pretty much every studio in Hollywood was scrambling to capitalize on the power of the shared universe formula (R.I.P. Dark Universe). With DC Comics being the longtime rival of Marvel Comics, the DC Extended Universe was a chief target of copycat accusations, as "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" brought together the heavy-hitters of the DC universe after just one previous movie ("Man of Steel"), while also setting up an even bigger superhero team-up movie, "Justice League."

Those plans have since, in the words of new DC Studios architect James Gunn, gotten a little bit "f***ed up." The DCEU is now getting a soft reboot as the DC Universe, and "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is in an awkward position: a legacy project releasing in the pre-reboot grey area, where the DCEU is dying off and has yet to rise from the ashes as the DCU. (That will happen in "The Flash," courtesy of a multiverse shake-up).

Zachary Levi's Shazam does have the benefit of existing beyond the inner circle of DC heroes; being a dorky outsider is kind of his brand, and Levi himself has described his character as "the Deadpool of DC." But these early numbers don't bode well for Shazam surviving the DCEU event horizon, and continuing to be a part of the revamped comic book universe in the years to come.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is in theaters now.