“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” took a sizable hit in its sophomore outing at the box office. Ticket sales for the third Marvel movie starring Paul Rudd’s subatomic hero were down 69% from its $105 million debut, resulting in the biggest second-weekend drop in the franchise’s history.
That fall has inspired plenty of debate among analysts and experts: Is the film’s performance a blip or an inflection point in Hollywood’s biggest property? The answer is likely somewhere in between, according to senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
“As second weekend drops go, anything in the 70% realm is pretty significant,” says Dergarabedian. “But movies that open with over $100 million are generally front-loaded. In some cases, ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall’ comes into play.”
In other words, its second-weekend turnout of $32 million is not exactly encouraging this early into its theatrical run, but let’s see where ticket sales end up by the time “Quantumania” leaves the big screen.
“Ant-Man 3” certainly had a big start, scoring the first $100 million debut of the year and landing by far the biggest opening weekend in the pint-sized Marvel trilogy. And that’s despite getting saddled with some of the worst reviews and audience scores in the entire MCU.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” says Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “It had the biggest opening of the series, by far, which makes up for any drops.”
Plus there’s precedent. It’s not unusual for major tentpoles to earn the bulk of their returns in the first weekend of release. Marvel movies have become increasingly front-loaded because audiences want to see them quickly to avoid spoilers, and the $200 million-budgeted “Quantumania,” which is the 31st installment and kicks off the MCU’s Phase 5 slate, is no exception.
Additionally, theater owners — who set the prices for movie tickets — have started to charge more for blockbuster movies during opening weekend. As a result, second-weekend drops in attendance (compared to ticket sales) aren’t necessarily as large as they appear, according to studio sources. Still, it didn’t help that “Ant-Man 3” was targeting a similar audience of younger males as Universal’s new horror-comedy “Cocaine Bear,” which beat expectations with $23 million over the weekend.
“Coming off a holiday weekend doesn’t help either,” adds Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOfficePro. (“Ant-Man 3” opened ahead of President’s Day).
Others feel it’s more than heated box office competition and harsh holiday comparisons. There’s concern the latest “Ant-Man” extends a potentially worrying trend for Marvel. Though “Quantumania” endured the steepest fall, it’s not the only recent MCU movie to witness a substantial drop in its second weekend. Pandemic-era entries, including “Black Widow” (67.8%), “Thor: Love and Thunder” (67.6%), “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (67.5%) and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (67%), suffered similar declines.
Yet those movies — with the exception of “Black Widow,” which was released day-and-date on Disney Plus — earned at least $760 million and as much as $955 million by the end of their theatrical runs. There’s an argument that Marvel hasn’t been appealing beyond its target audience, but that target audience sure is dependable. No other franchise, dozens of films in, has managed to come close to that kind of consistency.
“The loyal fans are going to show up no matter what,” Robbins says. “The increasingly front-loaded nature and, occasionally divisive reception, of some of their recent films might not necessarily be worrying to the brand overall as long as the core fanbase remains.”
For that reason, analysts prefer to measure the film’s success by its lifetime total — and the third “Ant-Man” installment is expected to improve upon its predecessors. So far, “Quantumania” has grossed $167 million in North America and $364 million globally after just two weeks in theaters. (Need proof that Marvel is operating on another level than its rivals? By next weekend, “Quantumania” will overtake the lifetime tally of Dwayne Johnson’s DC comic book installment “Black Adam,” which left theaters with $392 million.)
By comparison, the first standalone adventure, 2015’s “Ant-Man,” opened to $57 million in North America and tapped out with $180 million domestically and $519 million globally. The 2018 sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp” opened to $76 million in North America and ended up grossing $216 million domestically and $622 million globally. Based on its debut, “Quantumania” could end up with roughly $240 million domestically, sources estimate, though they say it’s too soon to predict the global total.
“The opening weekend number was a big step up from ‘Ant-Man 2,’ so we know the fanbase is still excited,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “I’d be surprised if it meant anything long term or serious in terms of the quality of the Marvel brand.”
It’s worth reminding the skeptics that not every Marvel movie is created equally. Ant-Man has never been as mighty, at least at the box office, as its Avenger contemporaries. At the same time, future installments (no matter how beloved) will struggle to ever compete with a behemoth like “Avengers: Endgame.” So while there’s understandable concern the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which now spans television in addition to film, will eventually oversaturate the marketplace, analysts aren’t sure the less enthusiastic reception of “Quantumania” will impact the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” in May or “The Marvels” in November.
“You aren’t going to always get a grand slam,” says Bock. “But Marvel is hitting more home runs than anyone.”