- Blue Beetle box office: A costly commercial flop, this latest DC Studios/Warner Bros. release also happens to be the latest bit of bad news for the heavily indebted media conglomerate Warner Bros. Discovery. Ángel Manuel Soto directed Blue Beetle; Xolo Maridueña plays the title character.
Blue Beetle box office: Budgeted at $100+ million, DC’s latest superhero flick has so far grossed $100+ million worldwide – and that’s very bad news for Warner Bros. Discovery
Directed by Ángel Manuel Soto and starring Xolo Maridueña as the titular Mexican-American superhero, DC Studios/Warner Bros.’ Blue Beetle finally passed the $100 million mark (which, by the way, ain’t what it used to be*) over this past extended Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1–4).
How bad is that?
Far worse than its sounds.
Initially slated to be launched on HBO Max (now, however idiotically, known as just plain Max in the U.S.), Blue Beetle had a downright mediocre debut on the Aug. 17–19 weekend: $25 million from 3,883 North American (U.S. and Canada only) theaters, in addition to an even paltrier $18 million from 63 international territories.
Budgeted at a reported $104 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), Blue Beetle has to date grossed $105.2 million – globally: $59.3 million in the U.S. and Canada (up to Sept. 5) and an estimated $45.9 million (up to Sept. 3) elsewhere as per studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
* $100 million at the domestic box office in 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015 would represent, respectively, around $195 million, $165 million, $135 million, and $125 million in 2023.
Unusual domestic/international split
What’s most curious about Blue Beetle’s figures is that this DC title fared worse internationally than domestically. With most superhero movies, even those that bomb, it’s almost always the other way around.
Recent examples include (sticking to the dud-prone DCEU): The Flash ($108.1 million vs. [est.] $160.4 million [box office article]), Shazam! Fury of the Gods ($57.6 million vs. [est.] $76.2 million), Black Adam ($168.2 million vs. [est.] $225.1 million), and The Suicide Squad ($55.8 million vs. [est.] $112.9 million).
One possible explanation for Blue Beetle’s stronger – or rather, less wobbly – domestic take is that Warners has pushed hard to lure into theaters those labeled “Hispanic” or “Latino/a” in the United States. That “ethnic” group (a wholly made-up sociopolitical construct that exists only in the U.S.) supposedly encompasses 30 percent of local moviegoers.
But why would Warners do that?
What a question.
In the U.S. media (and among marketers) there’s the (racist) belief that “moviegoers want to see characters who look like them.” That helps to explain why Marvel’s Captain America and Thor movies starring white, blue-eyed, light-brown-haired/blonde Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth have been, in comparison to other titles, far bigger hits in Norway, Sweden, and Germany than in Mexico, China, or South Korea.
Except that… But never mind. Facts play no role in those people’s perception of reality.
Anyhow, although this “ethnic”-centered promotional strategy – including the heavy use of U.S.-geared Spanish-language media – may have increased awareness of Blue Beetle among that target group and led to more ticket sales in the domestic market, it clearly didn’t have as strong an effect** as Warners and its heavily indebted parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, had hoped. (WBD is nearly $45 billion in the red; and Billion Dollar Barbie or no, its stock is trading at around 45 percent of its April 2022 peak.)
** Thirty-eight percent of opening-weekend Blue Beetle ticket-buyers were reportedly “Hispanic” or “Latino/a.” (Update: For comparison’s sake, 43 percent of opening-weekend [Sept. 8–10] ticket-buyers for Michael Chaves’ horror thriller The Nun II, featuring Taissa Farmiga and Storm Reid, were reportedly “Hispanic” or “Latino/a.”)
The strike factor
Something else to keep in mind: Hollywood’s actors (and writers) strike surely didn’t help matters any.
However, as in the case of the Denzel Washington action-thriller The Equalizer 3, which is faring worse than its two predecessors once inflation is taken into account, it’s impossible to say how much higher Blue Beetle’s domestic grosses would have been – if at all – during “normal times.” Even had Xolo Maridueña showed up San Diego’s Comic-Con.
Really, as if superhero nerds all over the U.S. wouldn’t have bought tickets for the DC release regardless of who attended or failed to attend that particular gathering.
Also not helping Blue Beetle expand from its core fanboy audience: U.S. reviewers haven’t been exactly ecstatic about the movie. Among Rotten Tomatoes’ “top critics,” Blue Beetle has a 71 percent “fresh” rating but only a middling 6.3/10 average.
Blasé ‘Latin America’
Now, looking at “the rest of the world.” What about that part of the planet known as “Latin America”?
Well, it’s unclear how heavy the marketing push was in Hollywood’s two biggest territories in that region, Mexico and Brazil, but box office figures haven’t been off the charts.
Based on currently available numbers, Blue Beetle has scored a less-than-impressive $5.8 million in Mexico – despite the presence of prestigious local performers Damián Alcazar (eight-time Ariel Award winner) and Adriana Barraza (Oscar nominee for Babel, 2006).
In fact, Blue Beetle has no chance of getting near the Mexican box office grosses of, say, Black Panther ($28.3 million), Black Widow ($9.9 million during the height of the COVID pandemic), or Black Adam ($15.6 million).
So much for the theory that “moviegoers want to see characters who look like them.” (Besides, it’s hardly as if Mexicans belong to one single ethnic group.)
On to Brazil…
Notwithstanding the casting of Brazilian actress/model Bruna Marquezine as the superhero’s romantic interest, which in all probability generated some added local publicity for the film, Blue Beetle has thus far collected only $5.6 million in the South American nation.
Something to bear in mind: In Brazil, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are foreign-language-speaking foreigners just like Colombians, Polish-Canadians, Danes, and Koreans. If Blue Beetle was going to click with local audiences, it would have been in the same way – a Hollywood movie worth checking out – as Black Panther ($36.9 million), Captain Marvel ($38.2 million), or, even if to a lesser extent, Black Adam ($15.3 million).
Elsewhere on the planet, Blue Beetle’s top markets are the United Kingdom/Ireland ($5 million), France ($3.6 million), and Indonesia ($1.8 million). The movie should open later this month in Australia, but there doesn’t seem to be a release date for Japan, South Korea, or China.
Big loss for Warners
Now, how big of a flop is Blue Beetle?
Well, this DC/Warner Bros. release would likely need to gross around $300–$320 million globally to recoup its overall cost at the box office.
Needless to say, that isn’t going to happen. Not even close, as, barring a Chinese, Japanese, and/or Korean miracle (that is, in case the movie ever gets distributed in these countries), Blue Beetle should end its global run somewhere around $120–$130 million.
This coming weekend, Blue Beetle is expected to gross about $4 million in the domestic market.
Blue Beetle cast
Besides Xolo Maridueña, Damián Alcázar, and Adriana Barraza, the Spanish-surnamed Blue Beetle cast includes George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo, Elpidia Carrillo, Harvey Guillén, Raoul Max Trujillo, Jorge Jimenez, Gabriella Ortiz, Carlos Ponce, and the voice of Becky G (born Rebbeca Marie Gomez).
Also in the cast: Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking, 1995) – instead of original choice Sharon Stone – as the villainess of the piece, Kord Industries CEO Victoria Kord, whose life aim is regaining possession of the all-powerful alien artifact known as the Scarab.†
An aside: Bruna Marquezine’s artistic surname seems to be a Portuguesecized version of an Italian family name (Marchesine) on her father’s side.
Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer was credited for the Blue Beetle screenplay, based on the DC character created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner.
† Victoria’s niece, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), had stolen the Scarab from her. The artifact is what transforms young Jamie Reyes into the Blue Beetle.
“Blue Beetle Box Office: Warner Bros.’ $100+ Million Bomb” notes
Unless otherwise noted, “Blue Beetle Box Office: $100+ Million Bomb” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about Blue Beetle and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office take at top-priced venues.
Xolo Maridueña Blue Beetle movie image: DC Studios | Warner Bros.
Raoul Max Trujillo, Bruna Marquezine, and Susan Sarandon Blue Beetle movie image: Hopper Stone/SMPSP | DC Studios | Warner Bros.
“Blue Beetle Box Office: Warner Bros.’ $100+ Million Bomb” last updated in September 2023.