When New Line/DC’s Shazam: Fury of the Gods hit tracking four weeks ago with a low $35M projection, it was shocking and not shocking to rival distributors. Shocking, because in a spring full of franchise tentpoles, many of which are seeing record opening domestic highs, how can a DC property like Shazam! not keep up with the pack? Not shocking in that — well, it’s a goofy, old Shazam!
Now while it’s possible for a movie to start low in its projections on tracking and swell as the studio spends the bulk of a pic’s P&A in the final lap before its opening, the outlook on Shazam! Fury of the Gods didn’t budge and now the David F. Sandberg directed sequel, produced by Warner Bros. newly installed DC co-head Peter Safran, is looking at a $30M start in U.S./Canada., off 44% from the first 2019 movie’s $53.5M opening. Shazam 2‘s Friday (and previews) at $11.7M is 42% off the first pic’s $20.3M Friday+previews. Even if Shazam 2 benefits from family matinees and builds up to a $35M-$40M opening (which no one is expecting), it’s still off from the first pic’s stateside start. Realize we live in a marketplace where we are use to seeing superhero sequels outperform the openings of their predecessors.
Audience diagnostics are off for Shazam: Fury of the Gods: The DC Captain Marvel received a B+ CinemaScore, to the first title’s A, and pulled in less of the 18-34 demographic than chapter one, 56% to 64%. Audience exits on the first Shazam! were harder than CinemaScore results at 79% positive, 59% definite recommend–the sequel saw similar results at 78% positive, and a 64% recommend here. Men over 25 were the biggest quad for Shazam! back in 2019 at 35% and and an 82% grade; part two saw a 40% share of guys over 25, with a lower grade of 77%. Rivals believe that the scores on the first Shazam! weren’t good enough to demand a sequel. Why did New Line make one? Because Shazam! netted a profit of $75M after all ancillaries off a $100M production cost and $105M global marketing spend.
Warners didn’t really drop the ball in marketing Shazam! Fury of the Gods, trotting out the first trailer and the cast at the return-to-in-person San Diego Comic-Con last July. In fact, of those who saw Shazam 2, 18% said the in-theater trailer, and 16% cited the YouTube trailer as the most influential means of marketing. Some sources snipe to me that the materials for Shazam! Fury of the Gods were giddy, and that the conceit of everybody is a Shazam deflates from him being the almighty superhero. However, that was always the spirit of this B-tier DC superhero going back to the first film. Also, you can’t fault Warner distribution here for doing their jobs: They protected Shazam 2, getting it away from Avatar: The Way of Water at Christmas so it could have access to Imax and PLF ticket formats this weekend.
Shazam’s inability to fly at the box office has largely to do with the fact that there’s no want-to-see among core DC fans in regards to this sequel. It’s not part of a connective tissue in the DC universe, nor was it ever, and that’s a problem that DC Bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran are looking to fix. They’ve been very public about laying out their new multiverse, and it was never made certain that Shazam would be a definite part of their “Chapter One, Gods and Monsters”. The exclusion of Shazam has taken away the sheen from what should be a standalone, crowd-pleasing movie. Again, not a must-see for DC fans. In fact, one of the reasons why Shazam was developed over at New Line was because it was a lighter comedy project, and an outlier to the gravitas of Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman. While Gunn and Safran don’t want to simply toss away the character played by Zachary Levi, the actor made it clear to The Hamden Journal’s Natalie Sitek at the sequel’s world premiere that if there’s a threequel, “It all comes down to what the people want.”
In wrangling the entire DC universe under one newly revised umbrella, something which Gunn and Safran are confident the previously Walter Hamada-designed The Flash can do on June 16, Gunn exclaimed on the DC press day back in January that “As everyone here probably knows, the history of DC is pretty messed up, it was f***ed up.”
Yes, Shazam is a family property much like Marvel’s Ant-Man. However, Marvel Studios has grown that franchise’s openings to an all-time high of $106.1M with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania because they’ve made the deeper universe character important in the context of a larger universe, thus making it a must-see for fans. A key driver for that threequel was the feature debut of new MCU baddie Kang the Conqueror played by Jonathan Majors, who was introduced in the Disney+ series Loki. In sum, there’s no reason for the audience of The Batman and Spider-Man: No Way Home to go out of their way and spend time with Shazam in part two. He’s just not serious enough for them in regards to the larger canon.
While all of the above might be logical in regards to Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ lackluster opening, there was another inherent element which didn’t work and that is in the aging up of the pic’s protagonist Billy Batson from a 12-year old in the 2019 film to a teenager in part two. The first Shazam! charmed in being like a superhero version of the Tom Hanks classic Big, and well, aging up Shazam to teenagedom isn’t as cute. No one was looking for a sequel to superhero Big.
Should Shazam! Fury of the Gods meet its global start of $85M off a $125M production cost, does it still profit? Marketing costs for the sequel are on par to the first, if not less as the new Warner Bros Discovery is about promoting their IPs through their owned and operated TV and streaming tenacles at an efficient spend. I’m told by those in the know that it will be pretty tough to get Shazam! Fury of the Gods in the black.