Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated film, “The Flash,” faced a major challenge as it opened this weekend with key cast members, including its main star Ezra Miller, unavailable for press engagements. The studio had hoped for a strong start, but early figures suggest a disappointment with a projected 3-day box office of around $60 million, falling short of the studio’s initial expectations of $70 million to $75 million.
Despite this setback, Warner Bros. remains optimistic that the film will benefit from the Juneteenth holiday, projecting a 4-day total of $70 million across 4,234 theaters. If achieved, this would mark a significant milestone, as it would be the first time the Juneteenth holiday has yielded a daily gross of over $10 million. In comparison, last year’s Juneteenth Monday saw Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” earning just $8.6 million. However, other studios have more conservative estimates for “The Flash.” The film grossed $24.5 million on its opening day, including Thursday previews, but industry experts believe the figures may be lower than anticipated.
Amid the ongoing possibility of a SAG-AFTRA strike authorization, which could limit actors’ ability to engage in promotional activities, the incident with “The Flash” raises concerns for studios and streamers about the repercussions of restricting access to cast members. The unavailability of TV series creators at San Diego Comic-Con due to similar circumstances has already underscored the challenges faced when key talent cannot participate in promotional events.
In the case of “The Flash,” Ezra Miller, who recently faced legal troubles, made his first Hollywood appearance since the incident at the film’s red carpet photocall, with limited access to video or press interviews. While a few members of the cast engaged in press activities, the majority were not available for extensive interviews. This approach aimed to avoid uncomfortable questions surrounding Miller’s personal issues. Additionally, the film lacked a promotional partnership on the scale of other major blockbusters, which usually contribute to generating significant buzz and attracting audiences.
“The Flash” faces another hurdle in the mixed reception from moviegoers. Despite being touted by co-DC Boss James Gunn as “one of the greatest superhero movies ever made,” audience reactions have been less enthusiastic. The film received a B CinemaScore and a 77% rating on Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak exits, with only 59% of viewers recommending it. Furthermore, “The Flash” is attracting a predominantly male audience and not appealing to as many women as previous DC films like “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman,” resulting in a slower performance at the box office.
The inclusion of multiverse elements and the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, which generated excitement among fans, may not resonate as strongly with the average moviegoer. For many, “The Flash” is primarily a film centered around a lesser-known DC character and the risks associated with exploring a deeper universe. Such ventures often face challenges in achieving opening weekend grosses exceeding $100 million. Notably, successful franchises like “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” started with similar figures. While “Aquaman” achieved a $67.8 million 3-day opening, it benefited from a Christmas release and received a higher CinemaScore. Interestingly, Warner Bros. did not announce a sequel for “The Flash” but instead revealed that director Andy Muschietti would helm the new Batman film, “Brave and the Bold.”
Despite the underwhelming performance of “The Flash,” Warner Bros.’ marketing efforts have been widely praised by rivals and industry peers. The studio invested heavily in trailers, spending $31.3 million on TV spots alone, resulting in over 1.07 billion impressions. This marketing expenditure surpasses what Disney allocated for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Elemental,” as well as Paramount’s “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” The Flash’s TV spots received significant exposure on networks like ABC, ESPN, TNT, Fox, and NBC, with popular shows such as NBA games, SportsCenter, NFL broadcasts, and the Today show.
In terms of geographical performance, “The Flash” resonated most strongly in the South Central and West regions of the United States. The film also benefitted from screenings in IMAX and premium large format (PLF) theaters, which accounted for 42% of its box office revenue. Among individual theaters, AMC Burbank stands out with close to $93,000 in revenue so far, including early showings.
In addition to “The Flash,” the weekend box office saw the release of Disney/Pixar’s “Elemental.” Despite negative reviews following its debut at Cannes, the film is projected to earn around $30 million over the 3-day period, with a possible 4-day total of $33 million across 4,035 theaters. “Elemental” has received an “A” CinemaScore and positive PostTrak exits, indicating decent audience satisfaction. The film appeals mostly to mothers, with a 63% female attendance rate and a majority of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34. Notably, the film showcases a diverse audience mix, with 32% Latino/Hispanic, 30% Caucasian, 25% Asian/other, and 13% Black viewers. Its strongest performance is in the central and western parts of the country. PLFs accounted for 6% of ticket sales, while 3D screenings contributed to nearly 17%. The El Capitan theater in Hollywood leads the film’s revenue with over $41,000 so far, including previews.
The weekend box office also featured holdover films such as “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” which is expected to earn around $30 million in its third weekend, potentially surpassing “Elemental” for second place. The film’s total box office revenue is estimated at $287.6 million. Additionally, Lionsgate’s horror comedy “The Blackening” is projected to earn $6 million to $8 million over three days at 1,775 theaters. The film received a B+ CinemaScore and positive PostTrak responses, with 81% of viewers expressing satisfaction and 64% recommending it. It attracted a balanced male-female audience, with the largest demographic being 18-24-year-olds. African American viewers represented the majority at 53%, followed by White viewers at 27%, Latino viewers at 14%, and Asian/other viewers at 5%. The film’s strongest performance was observed in the East, South, and Midwest regions.
In the arthouse segment, Focus Features’ “Asteroid City,” directed by Wes Anderson, achieved a remarkable $120,000 theater average, the highest since the start of the pandemic. The film is set to earn $720,000 at six theaters in New York City and Los Angeles over the weekend, with a projected 4-day total of $804,000. The star-studded ensemble cast, including Tom Hanks, Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, and Edward Norton, generated significant interest. The Landmark Sunset 5 theater led the pack with an impressive $80,000 on Friday alone, contributing to the film’s success.
Rounding out the top five at the box office, Paramount’s “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” secured the fourth spot with $5.2 million on Friday, bringing its 3-day total to $19.6 million. Disney’s “Little Mermaid” claimed fifth place with $3.7 million on Friday, marking a cumulative box office of $256.1 million since its release four weeks ago.
Despite the mixed performance of “The Flash” and “Elemental,” the overall box office is hoping to reach around $200 million for the weekend.