Morbius Proves That Marvel Guarantees Box Office Success (But Only To A Point)

It's April and I kind of like to think of that as pre-summer in the moviegoing world. The years 2020 and 2021 were a bit off given the pandemic, but this year, things are looking a whole lot more normal in comparison. There are a lot of big movies hitting theaters this month that feel like summer movies, but they're not actually coming out during summer. "Morbius" kicked things off in that department as the month's first big release and, even after being delayed for years, it managed to keep the Marvel brand's hot streak going by topping the box office. But the film is also showing the limitations of the Marvel brand. And in the coming weeks, we could see just how limited that guaranteed success truly is. 

Meanwhile, some original films did encouragingly well and some milestones were crossed. Let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

Morbius takes a bite out of the box office, but it may just be one bite

According to Box Office Mojo, "Morbius" won the weekend with a $39.1 million opening. That was definitely near the low end of expectations, with Sony estimating a conservative $33 million start for the Marvel Comics adaptation, while tracking had it anywhere between $40 and $50 million. Still, the movie's production budget is said to be in the $75 million range, which is extremely low for a superhero movie (though that number surely doesn't account for all of the extra marketing money and other financial issues that resulted from the lengthy delay). In any event, this would, at first glance, appear to be a solid start for the next entry in Sony's Spider-Man Universe.

But the numbers look less encouraging the more we dig in. For one, this is indeed very low for a comic book movie, even though it's not so bad in relation to the budget. "Venom" opened to $80 million in 2018, while "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" opened to an even larger $90 million last year. The "Morbius" numbers look pretty low in comparison, and, given that "Venom 2" opened to more than double this amount just six months ago, it would be hard to blame this on the pandemic. What isn't helping matters is the fact that critics have trashed the movie, and audiences aren't responding in a way that speaks to a good holdover next weekend.

While the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is at 70%, that isn't quite a number that is good enough to expect some "must-see" word of mouth. Especially when the critical rating is at a measly 17%. Meanwhile, the CinemaScore was at a very below-average C+, which further suggests Jared Leto's living vampire is not going to benefit from word of mouth in the coming weeks. So yes, the Marvel branding helped out the gate — but that is only going to get this movie so far. If it falls off a cliff next weekend, Sony may have to rethink its strategy for these spin-offs in the future, and with "Kraven the Hunter" already filming, they may need to do that sooner rather than later.

The Lost City holds pretty well, but RRR plummeted

In positive news for originals, "The Lost City" did not buckle under the weight of a new Marvel flick entering the fold, as the rom-com starring Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock earned $14.8 million in its second weekend. That represents a 51.4% drop, which is kind of par for the course for most bigger movies. It now sits at $61 million worldwide, with only $7 million of that coming from international markets so far. Given its reported $68 million budget, it still has a hill to climb but this is absolutely a win for originals in the theatrical marketplace right now. No doubt about it.

On the flip side of the coin, the Indian action flick "RRR" dropped off a cliff in its second weekend, taking in just $1.6 million, a steep 83% drop compared to last week. That said, the movie is already past $100 million worldwide and the U.S. was just part of the equation. So this helped put some meat in seats for about a week, and it can still make its money elsewhere. It's a win-win, even if the drop is a bit disappointing on the surface.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is off to a great start

In further encouraging news for original ideas, A24's much-acclaimed "Everything Everywhere All At Once" expanded a bit into 38 theaters this weekend, taking in a little over $1 million and cracking the top ten. That represents an outstanding $26,631 per-screen average, which bodes well as the movie expands even further in the coming weeks. The hope is that this thing can slowly grow and build buzz, ultimately getting to a point where it can make enough money to justify the $25 million budget. But critics and audiences alike have, thus far, been all about it. Fingers crossed that this can be one of the surprise hits of the year and encourage studios to chase big, original ideas.

And the rest...

"The Batman" finished in the number three spot in its fifth weekend with a $10.8 million haul. The DC flick has now earned $710 million globally and yet, we still don't have firm confirmation of a sequel. What is Warner Bros. waiting for, exactly? That remains unclear but, either way, the movie has done quite well, especially for a gritty, three-hour take on the popular superhero. Make no mistake, a sequel is going to happen, it's just a matter of when the studio will announce it.

"Uncharted" is also still hanging in the top five, coming in at number four with $3.6 million in its seventh weekend. Tom Holland's video game adaptation now stands at $373 million globally and could get close to $400 million, which might be enough for Sony to think a sequel is a good idea. Either way, this was at the very least not a bomb by any means and Holland gets to count himself as a movie star outside of his Spider-Man costume.

"Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie" rounded out the top five with $1.9 million, bringing its domestic total to just shy of $30 million. Again, the anime performing well in North America is great news for movie theaters as this is just another kind of programming that can get people out of the house. Meanwhile, Ti West's horror flick "X" has crossed the $10 million mark domestically, but it is fading fast and might have to rely on VOD and streaming to find its audience. Is that enough for A24 to justify a prequel and possibly a sequel? We shall see. 

Looking ahead to this weekend, we've got a pair of heavy-hitters in the form of Michael Bay's "Ambulance" and "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," which should make for a competitive and interesting situation. If it goes according to plan, they will each attract different audiences and it will be good for both Universal and Paramount, respectively.