‘The Flash’ wins the weekend in less-than-heroic fashion

Two Ezra Millers and Michael Keaton’s return as Batman weren’t enough to make ‘The Flash’ a massive hit.

‘The Flash’ wins the weekend in less-than-heroic fashion
Ezra Miller, Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle in The Flash. / Warner Bros. Pictures

Hello! Welcome to The Box Office Report for the weekend of June 16-18, 2023.

Before we get into this weekend’s box office, I need to mention that Popculturology will be off this Tuesday, June 20. With the long weekend, pop culture news is slim. I’ll see you all again on Friday.

1. The Flash

Weekend gross: $55.1M
Total domestic gross: $55.1M
Last weekend: New release
Percent drop: NA

The Flash won the weekend, but it wasn’t pretty. While earlier tracking had The Flash on pace for a $60 million to $70 million opening weekend, the Ezra Miller extravaganza stalled out with a $55.1 million debut.

As opening weekends go for DCEU movies, The Flash wasn’t the worst recent debut (that would be Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ $30.1 million weekend), but it didn’t live up to the $67 million that Black Adam scored its opening weekend. (Never thought we’d be using Black Adam as a standard to live up to …)

What went wrong with The Flash? Having a star that Warner Bros. had to keep off the red carpets and away from the press surely didn’t help. Audiences gave The Flash a B through CinemaScore, which is kind of awful for a movie, and a sign that The Flash didn’t didn’t have positive word-of-mouth reactions to give it a boost through Saturday and Sunday.

Even more baffling was the choice of Warner Bros. to repeatedly insist that The Flash was one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Whether it was James Gunn, David Zaslav or Tom Cruise, we heard over and over again that this was some kind of masterpiece. Unless you can deliver on that promise, that’s an easy way to set a movie up to be a disappointment.

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2. Elemental

Weekend gross: $29.5M
Total domestic gross: $29.5M
Last weekend: New release
Percent drop: NA

I don’t know if Pixar can come back from the hole Disney dug for it during the pandemic. Yes, there are creative issues going on over the studio, but Pixar still produced Turning Red, Luca and Soul over the past few years. Disney automatically sending all of those movies to Disney+ during the pandemic, though, conditioned moviegoers to see Pixar films as movies to watch on streaming, not in theaters.

Elemental’s $29.5 million opening weekend couldn’t even match the $50.6 million that Lightyear debuted with this same weekend last year — and that film is widely considered to be a flop for Pixar.

3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Weekend gross: $27.8M
Total domestic gross: $280.4M
Last weekend: 2nd
Percent drop: 50

I predicted that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse would beat out Elemental this weekend, and it was close. The film finished less than $2 million behind Pixar’s latest — close enough where we could see a flip when final numbers come in.

Across the Spider-Verse has shown little sign of slowing down. With the exception of last Friday when Thursday preview numbers were rolled into Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ Friday total, Across the Spider-Verse was the No. 1 film in North America every day leading up to this weekend.

Across the Spider-Verse is closing in on $300 million at the domestic box office and $500 million worldwide. It’s already grossed almost $100 million more than Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did over its entire run.

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4. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Weekend gross: $20M
Total domestic gross: $100.6M
Last weekend: 1st
Percent drop: 67

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts tumbled to No. 4 after winning the box office last weekend. A 67 percent drop isn’t great, and with everything else on the way the next few weekends, I suspect we’re going to see the latest Transformers movie tumble out of view very quickly.

5. The Little Mermaid

Weekend gross: $11.6M
Total domestic gross: $253.6M
Last weekend: 3rd
Percent drop: 50

The Little Mermaid’s lockstep performance alongside the live-action Aladdin tapered off a bit this week, with The Little Mermaid grossing $11.6 million its fourth weekend in theaters while Aladdin grossed $17.3 that same frame.

Box office numbers via The Numbers based on Sunday estimates.

Next weekend

It’ll be interesting to see how the box office shakes out next weekend. Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City and No Hard Feelings, the R-rated comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence, both open wide on Friday. I’m not sure either of those movies have the strength to capture the top spot at the box office, but with the exception of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the competition from returning films is pretty soft.

That’s the end of this edition of Popculturology. Thanks for reading the newsletter. If you already are a subscriber, please consider becoming a supporter by upgrading your account.