The Marvels Is Officially The Biggest Bomb In Disney History

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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Everybody knows The Marvels was a box office bomb, but fans have underestimated just what a flop it really was. The movie ended up losing Disney a staggering $237 million, which is crazy for a franchise and an overall brand that seemed poised for continuous success. When the smoke cleared, The Marvels emerged as the biggest bomb in Disney history, taking the crown from John Carter, the previous record holder.

The Numbers Are Deceiving At First

When you look at simply the raw box office, you might not realize what a bomb The Marvels was. After all, the movie brought in around $218 million in global revenue.

The average horror filmmaker would kill for those kinds of numbers (for example, the global box office of the horror hit Scream VI was only $169.1 million, and the viral hit M3GAN only brought in $181 million). But ever since the first Avengers movie brought in over a billion dollars, Disney became accustomed to Marvel films bringing in a much larger box office.

Disney Expected More

While critics will point out that not every film in the MCU was ever destined to make bank, Disney had every reason to believe The Marvels would be a monstrous hit. After all, it was a direct sequel to the insanely successful 2019 film Captain Marvel. That movie made $1.1 billion at the box office, and the fact that its sequel made only a small fraction of that amount is staggering.

Other Costs Beyond Production

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Perhaps the biggest key to understanding The Marvels becoming such a bomb is comparing its box office against other costs: for example, the film had a budget of $274.8 million, so bringing in only $218 million means the movie is already in the hole. Disney dug that hole deeper with marketing (even with a reduced marketing budget for this film, the marketing costs were $110 million. Throw in another $75 million as the combined costs of interest, overhead, residuals, and other distribution expenses and you have the perfect recipe for a box office bomb.

John Carter

What is darkly impressive about this failure to long-term movie buffs is that The Marvels did even worse than John Carter. Disney produced this 2012 adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, and the film made a little over $284 million against a budget of $250 million. Throw in that movie’s additional costs (including marketing and paying for the IP) and you get a movie that lost Disney $200 million, a record The Marvels has since surpassed.


That’s really worth emphasizing: the term “box office bomb” is often used to describe borderline movies that may have generated a small profit but whose overall ROI disappointed the studio. The Marvels, though, like John Carter before it, actually lost Disney hundreds of millions of dollars. While there are various theories about how this happened, it seems likely The Marvels is just the highest-profile example of the so-called “superhero fatigue” that has audiences rejecting the tights-and-flights films that have dominated theaters since Iron Man premiered in 2008.

That fatigue is understandably alarming to Disney because it proves that even relatively good movies (it’s worth remembering The Marvels is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and enjoyed good word of mouth) can still bomb at the box office. This bodes ill for a studio trying to pivot after the legal dramas of Jonathan Majors forced major changes to future MCU movies, and it likely bodes ill for James Gunn as he attempts to create a successful DCU. 

Don’t You Think?

There is some grim irony for those who want it. The MCU began with Tony Stark, a man who grew tired of making weapons and became a superhero instead. Iron Man kicked off a box office revolution, but with The Marvels, parent company Disney made a deadly weapon of their own: the biggest bomb in the studio’s history.

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