Blue Beetle‘s $25.4 million opening weekend managed to dethrone Barbie for the number-one position on the box office charts, but no one is celebrating. The DC Extended Universe movie starring Cobra Kai‘s Xolo Maridueña as the titular superhero has a reported budget of $104 million, so it would have to make many times that to cover additional marketing costs and break even. Spoiler alert: it won't.
Superhero Movies Aren't the Event Movies That They Used to Be
Blue Beetle had the second-lowest box office opening in DCEU history. Only Wonder Woman 1984, which opened on much fewer screens in 2020 early in the pandemic, had a softer opening weekend. Blue Beetle isn't exactly a top-tier character such as Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, but recent box office data suggests that superhero movies aren't the guaranteed blockbusters they were only a few short years ago. Shazam! Fury of the Gods opened with just over $30 million and cost over $125 million to make. Another much-hyped DCEU movie, The Flash, barely grossed over $100 million domestically and cost over $220 million to make. Black Adam, starring Dwayne Johnson, also had a reported budget north of $190 million, but the movie only made $168 million domestically by the end of its run. Like most superhero movies, the end credits teased a future confrontation between Black Adam and Henry Cavill's Superman, but the likelihood of them appearing together again on-screen is remote at best. Collectively, all of the movies just mentioned will cost Warner Bros. millions and millions of dollars.
Even Marvel Should Proceed with Caution
Historically, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed more consistent box office success since the debut of Iron Man in 2008 and the subsequent “phases” of movies, but even the mighty MCU has to be wondering if the party is winding down. Despite grossing about $476 million worldwide, 2023's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania became one of the only MCU movies not to break even during its theatrical run.
While there are still recent superhero movies such as the animated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 that made the kind of money that studios have come to expect from comic book adaptations, the days when a movie such as 2019's Avengers: Endgame could end its run with a worldwide gross north of $2.7 billion seem like a distant memory. Whether it's a result of the theatrical release schedule being oversaturated with superhero flicks, the second- and third-tier superheroes featured in new movies being too unfamiliar to mainstream audiences, the numerous spin-off series on providers such as Disney+ making a subsequent theatrical appearance by the characters less of an event, or a combination of all three, superhero movies are no longer guaranteed cash cows. Despite decent reviews and kudos for inclusive casting, Blue Beetle didn't stand a chance at the box office — not in 2023.
Robert DeSalvo is a professional writer and editor with over 25 years of experience at print and online publications such as Movieline, Playboy, PCH, Fandango, and The A.V. Club. He currently lives in Los Angeles, the setting of his favorite movie, Blade Runner. Robert has interviewed dozens of actors, directors, authors, musicians, and other celebrities during his journalism career, including Brian De Palma, Nicolas Cage, Dustin Hoffman, John Waters, Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, Bryan Cranston, Anne Rice, and many more. Horror movies, sci-fi, cult films as well as gothic, postpunk, and synthwave music are what Robert geeks over.