Both Warner Bros./DC’s “The Flash” and Disney/Pixar’s “Elemental” are off to poor starts at the box office, with “Flash” suffering an estimated $55 million three-day/$64 million four-day opening from 4,234 theaters, while “Elemental” is sliding to a $29.5 million three-day/$33 million four-day start from 4,035 theaters.
“The Flash” grossed just $15.5 million on Saturday, representing only a 5% increase from its true Friday gross of $14.6 million (not counting $9.7 million in previews). Friday’s industry estimates had predicted an $18-19 million Saturday total, but walk-up ticket sales are dropping below expectations amidst the film’s tepid word of mouth, which includes a B on CinemaScore and an 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Both of those audience metrics are below what was received for “Black Adam,” a DC film that opened to $67 million domestic and $140 million worldwide last fall and which “The Flash” had long been expected to top. “Black Adam” grossed just $393 million against a $200 million budget before marketing costs, and it is now likely that “Flash,” which opened to $139 million worldwide, will fall below that total from a similar if not higher budget.
So instead of allowing DC and Warner to get a much needed rebound after the struggles of “Black Adam” and “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” “The Flash” will join those films on the list of recent DC films that show that the superhero franchise is being rejected by a significant portion of audiences, with last year’s “The Batman” being the exception. Such a result casts a dark shadow over the other DC films — “Blue Beetle” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” — that are still set to drop this year, while showing just how much work new DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran have to do to restore audience goodwill.
While the struggles of “The Flash” are somewhat of a surprise, the anemic performance of “Elemental” was expected for weeks. The $29 million opening is the worst in Pixar history after inflation adjustment. The only Pixar film with a lower unadjusted opening is the studio’s very first film, “Toy Story,” which opened to $29.1 million back in 1995.
Unlike “The Flash,” audience reception for “Elemental” has been very strong, scoring an A on CinemaScore to go with an 85% positive PostTrak rating and a 91% audience Rotten Tomatoes score. But whether it is because families have been conditioned to wait for Disney/Pixar animated films to hit streaming, the general struggles of original animated films at the box office compared to sequels, or the possibility that audiences just no longer see Pixar movies as theatrical events, “Elemental” is not attracting the sort of audience it needs to profit at the $200 million budget level that its studio commits to feature projects.
Of course, when looking at the struggles of “The Flash” and “Elemental,” one must also consider that there’s another acclaimed superhero animated film serving as stiff competition. Sony Animation’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is continuing to perform well in its third weekend with $27.8 million over three days and an estimated $32.4 million over four. Through Juneteenth, the film will have a domestic total of $285 million, 5% ahead of the pace of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and will cross $500 million worldwide later this week.
After “Spider-Verse,” it’s back to bad news as Paramount’s “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is falling fast at the box office, earning a second weekend of just $20 million three-day/$23 million four-day to fall 67% from its $61 million opening. That gives the film a $103 million domestic total after two weekends, making it unlikely that it will make much more than the $130 million earned by “Transformers: The Last Knight” in 2017.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” completes the top 5 with $11.5 million in its fourth weekend, passing the $250 million domestic mark but still struggling to get to $500 million worldwide with a global total of $466 million.
Outside the top 5, Lionsgate’s horror-comedy “The Blackening” is meeting pre-release projections with a four-day $7 million opening from 1,775 theaters. Produced by MRC on a $5 million budget and acquired at the Toronto International Film Festival by Lionsgate, “The Blackening” has earned solid reception with a B+ on CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 85% critics and 84% audience.
Finally, Focus Features released Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” in six theaters in New York and Los Angeles, earning an estimated $790,000 over three days for an excellent per theater average of $132,211. That is not only a studio record for Focus but is also the best limited release average the box office has seen since the $176,220 average of “La La Land” back in December 2016 and the best for a six-screen release since “American Hustle” in 2013. The film will expand to approximately 1,500 theaters next weekend.