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By the end of April, all indications pointed The flash opening to $100 million or more domestically. It was then that Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav took the stage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, triumphantly telling the theater owners that it was the best superhero movie he had ever seen.
The powerful executive could have easily kept a poker face and distanced himself The flash whereas it was done by the previous regime. Instead Zaslav bet on it as if it belonged to him. This included arranging for Tom Cruise, who was still basking in the afterglow Top Gun: nonconformist – to watch the film, with its positive reaction becoming a talking point within the press. Zaslav’s newly installed DC Studios co-head and lieutenant James Gunn also played trumpet The flash, though he tempered his remarks, saying in January that it’s “arguably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.” Whatever the wording, expectations have skyrocketed.
But in a stunning twist, The flash, one of the most anticipated films of the 2023 summer calendar, was a major box office failure upon its release. The tentpole, starring Ezra Miller in the lead role, opened to a dismal $55 million over the weekend of June 16-18, on par with past DC bombshell Guardians ($55.2 million) and not long before the infamous Miss DC Green Lantern ($53.5 million), not adjusted for inflation.
“It is unfathomable to me why Zas and James Gunn promise how wonderful any movie or new plan will be months into the future. The public doesn’t care and isn’t aware of their predictions,” says a veteran studio executive The Hollywood Reporter, noting that such predictions do not affect the share price or potential buyers. “Let the product do the talking”.
And speaks The flash he did, albeit not in a healthy way. Things went from bad to worse as word of mouth spread rapidly.
Based on Friday traffic, The flash it was expected to earn $58 million for the three-day weekend and $70 million for the four-day Juneteenth holiday weekend, according to estimates Saturday issued by Warners. But takings were downgraded on Sunday morning and again on Monday after traffic fell more than expected. By Sunday, Warners released an estimated four-day gross of $64.2 million, including $55.7 million for the three days. The final weekend numbers released on Tuesday were even lower: $55 million for the three days and $61.2 million for the four (the three-day number is considered the official opening gross).
Observers note that while The Flash isn’t as well known as Batman or Wonder Woman, the character isn’t dark. “It would have been a avengerslevel hit? Probably not, that would have been an unfair expectation, but it had a clear path to at least be like a movie Days of the future pait was for X-Men nine years ago, after that franchise seemed to have lost its way with confusing timelines and diminishing continuity,” says box office analyst Shawn Robbins of BoxOffice Pro. “The increasingly disjointed state of DC storylines is as much to blame as others external factors, leaving the franchise at a point where a lack of coherence has prevented the kind of emotional connection to most of its characters that a sprawling universe needs.”
The story looked very different back in February, when the first trailer debuted with great fanfare. “The flash it seemed like it had so much potential after its Super Bowl trailer. Hopes were very high. Instead, it’s more DC Comics mediocrity,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler. “Zaslav could have easily swept it under the rug since he inherited it.”
Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian is somewhat more forgiving, noting: “The flash sadly it had a rough road to the multiplex and given the complexities and challenges of marketing and positioning the film in the marketplace, debut number one is actually a solid achievement for DC Comics’ latest in such a busy summer season and competitive.
The flash was slapped with a B CinemaScore, which really is the equivalent of a C or worse when it comes to all-audience event photos. Release scores on PostTrak were also unusually bad, with only 58% of ticket buyers saying they would recommend the film and 77% saying it was excellent or very good. That compares to a definite recommendation score of 82% for Sony’s other superhero pic Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and 93% excellent/very good rating (On the other side of the Ragnoverse opened the week before.)
The breakdown by gender was also a problem. While most superhero movies and big action movies often skew men greatly – think 62% or 63% – The flash it has prompted many to double-try to make sure they read the numbers correctly. According to PostTrak, approximately 72% to 73% of ticket buyers were men.
Like the public, critics disagreed with Zaslav and Gunn’s assessment, resulting in a lukewarm 66% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Considering Zaslav and Gunn’s trust, many were surprised when The flash officially hit the track three weeks before its debut with a tepid forecast of $70 million. They also assumed that tracking services and Warner Bros. were being cautious. If only that were true.
Truth be told, Warners was in a tough spot when it came to the tentpole marketing and advertising campaign, helping to explain why Zaslav stepped in. Miller has been arrested multiple times in the past year, culminating in the actor releasing a statement in August 2022 apologizing for his behavior and saying they would be getting help for “complex mental health issues.”
Box office experts believe Miller’s woes may have turned off some moviegoers, but not enough to inflict the kind of damage it’s been causing. “No one would care if Miller promoted the film; he’s not a movie star and he has no following,” says a Warner insider.
Often, a Hollywood event photo that gets into trouble domestically can catch up overseas. In this case, there are no such guarantees. The flash, which opened day and date in nearly every major market, bowed to a muted $75 million internationally. Notes Warner’s source: “When a movie doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work.”
The film’s financial position will become clearer in its second weekend.
Development on The flash he went through three regimes at Warners and figured prominently in former DC Films head Walter Hamada’s plans for the universe. Hamada commissioned a script for the sequel to Aquaman screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, one that would ultimately lead to a crossover event titled Crisis on Infinite Earths. However those plans were scrapped after Gunn and Peter Safran rose to the top at DC. And while not The flash sequel was part of the duo’s big immediate plans, announced in January, were open to Miller returning to the role, perhaps as a supporting character in other projects (which seems less likely now in the wake of The flashthe bomb).
And had The flash made into a blockbuster, it’s hard to imagine a sequel wouldn’t be under consideration. A studio doesn’t spend hundreds of millions on a film that doesn’t have standalone franchise potential. And Gunn and Safran may not have said too much in January, considering Miller was still dealing with their personal issues. Safran and Gunn, however, hired him Fast director Andy Muschietti to direct a Batman movie titled The brave and the daring.
Says Robbins, “The hope now is that DC’s new regime can provide enough of a blank slate for the uninitiated to feel comfortable jumping back into the pool.”