‘Shazam,’ ‘Ant-Man’ Sequel Struggles Show Superheroes Aren’t Bulletproof at the Box Office

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With DC and Marvel’s cinematic universes sagging in popularity, their films need to work on their own merits to find an audience

Zachary Levi Shazam! Fury of the Gods Paul Rudd ant-man and the wasp quantumania
Paul Rudd stars in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" and Zachary Levi stars in "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" (Marvel Studios/DC)

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There was a time last decade when superhero films — even when they weren’t getting rave critic and audience reviews — were a near-lock to be profitable at the box office. The recent struggles of DC’s “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” show that’s not a guarantee anymore.

This past weekend, Warner Bros. and New Line released “Shazam 2” in just over 4,000 theaters and saw box office returns that fell below expectations. The sequel was never expected to come close to the $53.5 million of the first “Shazam,” but they also fell below projections of a $35-$38 million launch, sinking to $30.5