It was positioned as the first big blockbuster battle of summer. But this weekend’s showdown between “The Flash” and Pixar’s “Elemental” isn’t shaping up to be one for box office record books.
Both of the mega-budgeted tentpoles are tracking for lackluster starts, with “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller as the title DC superhero, targeting $70 million and “Elemental,” an animated adventure about opposites who attract, aiming to collect just $35 million. Insiders and analysts are split on the final weekend number for “The Flash,” with some expecting an even softer $68 million and others projecting as much as $85 million.
“The Flash” is landing on the big screen without a traditional promotional push from Miller, who has been a controversial figure in the lead-up to the film’s release. The actor, who was arrested several times in the past few years, released a statement in August to apologize for their erratic behavior and say they were in treatment for “complex mental health issues.” Miller attended the premiere of “The Flash” on Monday, marking their first public appearance in two years, but stopped short of engaging with the press.
Chalk it up to the unconventional global campaign or a glut of superhero offerings. But a debut of $70 million or below is less than heroic for a comic book epic that cost more than $200 million and has been heralded (if mostly by the executives who made the film) as “one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.” And yet, it’s on pace with the Dwayne Johnson-led “Black Adam,” which opened last year to $67 million and did not receive anywhere near the same critical sentiment. Plagued by negative reviews, the $200 million-budgeted “Black Adam” tapped out with $168 million domestically and failed to reach $400 million globally, ultimately losing money in its theatrical run. “The Flash” is hoping to fall closer in line with 2019’s “Aquaman,” which also kicked off to $67 million, but showed some impressive endurance, ultimately grossing $335 million in North America and $1.14 billion globally.
Analysts point out “The Flash” isn’t necessarily destined for the same fate as “Black Adam” — as long as audiences agree with new DC chief James Gunn and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s lavish praise about the greatness of “The Flash.” Critics have mostly liked the film, in which Miller plays the Scarlet Speedster known as Barry Allen across multiple timelines and Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck reprise their roles as Batman. “It” filmmaker Andy Muschietti directed “The Flash,” which begins as Barry travels back in time to prevent his mother’s murder and inadvertently cracks open the DC multiverse. Cameos abound!
Warner Bros. could use a comic book hit. “The Flash” is the second of four DC films that will open in theaters in 2023 before the studio’s new overlords Gunn and Peter Safran take the comic book universe in an entirely new direction. It follows “Shazam: Fury of the Gods,” which opened in March and turned into one of the biggest superhero misfires in recent memory with $57 million at the end of its domestic run. “Blue Beetle,” starring Xolo Maridueña as the alien symbiote, opens on Aug. 18 and “Aquaman 2” is set for Dec. 20.
In regards to “Elemental,” the family friendly film is bracing for disaster. Those projected ticket sales are rivaling 2015’s “The Good Dinosaur” ($39 million) and 2020’s “Onward” ($39 million) as the worst starts in Pixar’s modern history. The animation empire has been struggling since the pandemic, when several of its titles were sent directly to Disney+ and possibly trained family audiences to watch its movies at home. The studio took “Elemental” to the Cannes Film Festival to amplify the point (to all the youngsters sunning themselves on the French Riviera?) that Pixar is again making movies for the big screen.
Directed by Peter Sohn, “Elemental” is set in a world inhabited by anthropomorphic elements of nature — who don’t always blend well together. The story revolves around the friendship between fire element Ember and water element Wade, who discover they actually have more in common than meets the eye.
Also this weekend, Lionsgate’s horror satire “The Blackening” is expected to earn $7.5 million in its debut. Directed by Tim Story, the film pokes fun at the common horror trope that Black characters are often the first to die and follows a group of Black friends who gather at a remote cabin to celebrate Juneteenth. Cue the masked killer…
In limited release, Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” is opening in six theaters across New York City and Los Angeles. The 1950s-set film takes place in a fictional desert town as a cosmic event disrupts the annual Junior Stargazer convention and stars Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Hawke, Bryan Cranston and dozens of other Anderson regulars.