- The Flash box office: Despite a massive promotional campaign – one that lacked the lead actor doing press in the U.S. and elsewhere – DC Studios and Warner Bros.’ mega-budget The Flash is an outright global dud. Andy Muschietti directed; tabloid fave Ezra Miller plays the title character.
The Flash box office: Starring Ezra Miller as the title character, Warner Bros.’ latest DC superhero mega-release is the studio’s latest DC superhero mega-dud
June 16–19 (Father’s Day / Juneteenth) weekend box office: Warner Bros.’ Andy Muschietti-directed The Flash was easily the no. 1 movie on the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office chart, grossing $61.2 million Fri.–Mon. ($55 million Fri.–Sun., including $9.7 million from previews) from 4,234 theaters according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
That means the $200 million The Flash (as always, the production budget doesn’t include marketing and distribution expenses) opened about 10 percent lower (Fri.–Sun.) than Paramount’s $195 million actioner Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which box office pundits hailed as a “solid” domestic debut.
So, did The Flash have a “near-solid” – or maybe “a little watery” – debut?
No. Overall, things are far worse for this Warner Bros. release.
Ironically, many of the same box office pundits who lauded Rise of the Beasts‘ “solid” opening-weekend gross are now decrying The Flash’s “disastrous” initial take. True, this time around their labels are more reflective of reality – especially when one considers the DC superhero’s relatively paltry international take. More on that further below.
Subpar CGI & critical pans
Not helping matters in the domestic market (and possibly elsewhere), fans have loudly complained about The Flash’s distracting CGI – which looks shoddy and which director Muschietti has claimed was intentionally created that way. Feel free to believe him.
Just like you’re free to take DC co-honcho James Gunn and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav at their word (and at your own risk). The former vowed that The Flash is “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made” while the latter (who has been chopping off heads left and right at Warner Discovery) affirmed that his studio’s mega-investment is “the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.”
You can even believe every word in the reports about Tom Cruise being so enthralled with The Flash that he called director Muschietti to rave about his movie for 15 (or was it 150?) minutes. And that Zaslav has sat through the 2-hour-and-24-minute The Flash no less than three times.
We, for our part, are more inclined to believe that a good number of U.S. reviewers have found one sitting more than enough. After all, that’s pretty much what they tell us, as The Flash has a mediocre 51 percent approval rating and 5.8/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes’ “top critics.”
Wishing the star away
Besides quality CGI and critical approval, also missing from The Flash – in terms of marketing, that is – is the film’s star.
Ezra Miller, who plays Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, has done just about zero publicity for their (that’s the pronoun Miller uses) movie after two years as the focus of unsavory news spanning the globe, including: A video showing Miller seemingly choking a woman outside a bar in Reykjavik; a felony burglary charge in Vermont; and charges for disorderly conduct and harassment (the latter would be dropped) in Hawaii.
Admittedly, Miller and costar Ben Affleck did attend The Flash’s Los Angeles premiere alongside Andy Muschietti, Jennifer Lopez, and Jessica Chastain, but apart from walking the red carpet Miller didn’t take part in on-camera or print interviews.
But why would that matter since Ezra Miller doesn’t have a “following”?
Don’t be an idiot. Being everywhere promoting your movie and helping to make it a success is how you develop a fan base.
Having said that, this is where things get complicated in Miller’s particular case. The actor has labeled themself “queer,” while their unorthodox looks and manner won’t make anyone think of Henry Cavill or Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth. Could that have also contributed to turning off countless fanboys (and fangirls) who want their superheroes to exude virility underneath their tight, revealing suits?
One thing we know: Some fans were eager to have Grant Gustin, the handsome, more conventionally masculine actor who plays The Flash on the U.S. broadcast channel CW, move from the so-called Arrowverse (DC’s small-screen realm) to what is fancifully known as the DC Extended Universe (DC’s big-screen realm).
Where was everybody else?
Furthermore, although director Muschietti has been plugging his movie wherever he goes, as per Deadline.com Ezra Miller’s fellow The Flash performers – Ben Affleck included – have mostly failed to promote their mega-budget release, whether due to other commitments (Michael Keaton is filming Beetlejuice 2) or, Deadline speculates, an unwillingness to discuss Miller’s off-screen behavior.
Something else to keep in mind: The Writers Guild of America is on strike, which has resulted in a number of U.S. TV shows being put in cryogenic sleep for who knows how long.
That in turn has led not only to less television exposure but also less online exposure for The Flash, as clips from popular talk shows are found all over YouTube and other social media platforms.
The Flash vs. Black Adam & Shazam!
So, how big of a commercial dud is The Flash?
For comparison’s sake: Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring action fave Dwayne Johnson, the Warner-distributed, critically excoriated Black Adam opened domestically with $67 million from 4,402 locations in October 2022, ending its run with $168.2 million, in addition to an estimated $255.1 million internationally. Worldwide total: $393.3 million.
Budgeted at a reported $200–$230 million, Black Adam – whether or not it made the DC Universe more “diverse” (its mixed-race American star plays a character hailing from an Egypt-like land) – ultimately turned out to be a Great Pyramid-sized box office dud that, in fact, may have ended up in the red even after ancillary revenues were tallied up.
Here’s another comparison: Directed by David F. Sandberg and starring Zachary Levy and Mark Strong, the Warner-distributed Shazam! opened domestically with $53.5 million (approx. $62 million in 2023) from 4,217 locations in April 2019, ending its run with $140.4 million, in addition to an estimated $225.6 million internationally. Worldwide total: $366 million. Budget: Making all the difference in terms of profitability, a “modest” $100 million.
Note: Three months ago, the Sandberg-Levy sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods was a total disaster, reaching a measly $57.6 million domestically and $133.8 million worldwide on a reported $110–$125 million budget.
After six days (Fri.–Wed.), The Flash – which trailed both Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Elemental on Wednesday – has raked in a mere $69.6 million in North America. With luck, this latest DC/Warners collaboration will end its domestic run somewhere between the original Shazam! (not adjusting for inflation) and Black Adam. In other words, it’ll be a major domestic underperformer in relation to its cost.
But, but, but … what about Hollywood’s foreign saviors?
Whatever happened to the charge of the foreign brigade?
The saviors of big, loud, (mostly) braindead American movies that fail to perform in the U.S. and Canada (this goes all the way back to 3D inanities like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and facsimile), international moviegoers haven’t demonstrated too much interest in this DC superhero.
The Flash has brought in only (an estimated) $74.5 million from 78 territories – or about 25–50 percent less than expected – lifting its opening-weekend global gross to a tepid $129.5 million. Its top international markets were China ($13.7 million), Mexico ($8.7 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($5.3 million), South Korea ($3.5 million), and Brazil ($3.4 million).
For comparison’s sake: Shazam! debuted with $102 million from 79 territories (including $29 million from China), while Black Adam debuted with $75.9 million from 76 territories. (China, where it was banned, wasn’t one of them.) And last weekend Transformers: Rise of the Beasts opened with $110 million from 68 territories (including $40 million from China).
And then there’s Aquaman, which scored $332 million from 58 territories (including $209.5 million from China) in its first two weeks out in December 2018. Directed by James Wan and starring Jason Momoa, Aquaman wrapped its international run with a sensational $813.4 million (vs. $335.1 million in the U.S. and Canada).
When it comes to The Flash’s mediocre overseas performance, Ezra Miller’s legal woes may have been less a (direct) problem than Warner Bros.’ decision not to have The Flash him/themself globetrotting to promote his/their movie – though, as explained further up, that might have come with its own set of risks.
In addition, reviews like Peter Bradshaw’s in The Guardian – “despite some diverting touches, Miller’s smirking, gurning, mugging doppelganger performance is a trial” – were no incentive to superhero-curious moviegoers. Nor were recommendations like the one found in Le Figaro, with The Flash listed as a movie “to be avoided.”
And let’s not forget that 21st-century TV show or no, The Flash isn’t nearly as well known or as idolized internationally as DC superheroes like Batman, Superman, or, for that matter, Wonder Woman.
The Flash movie cast
Besides Ezra Miller as the title character, The Flash features the aforementioned Ben Affleck (Oscar winner for cowriting Good Will Hunting, 1997; and for coproducing Argo, 2012) and Michael Keaton (Oscar nominee for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), 2014) as Batman(s).
Also in the cast: Sasha Calle as Supergirl, Ron Livingston, Antje Traue, Temuera Morrison, Kiersey Clemons, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, multiple award winner Maribel Verdú (Best Actress Ariel for Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006; etc.), and a couple of other Oscar-pedigreed actors, two-time nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, 2008; Nocturnal Animals, 2016) as General Zod and winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, 1990) as Alfred.
Plus cameos by Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, George Clooney as Batman, and, however oddly, Nicolas Cage as Superman (in honor of Tim Burton’s aborted 1998 movie project Superman Lives).
Lastly, The Flash includes archive footage of superheroes from decades past – Helen Slater as Supergirl, Christopher Reeve and George Reeves (no relation, note the latter’s added “s”) as Superman, and Adam West as Batman. Yet, no Robert Pattinson and Christian Bale as Batman, Chris O’Donnell and Burt Ward as Robin, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, or Buster Crabbe as that other Flash (Gordon) – who may not be a DC superhero in our reality but that shouldn’t matter once you’ve moved on to a parallel universe.
Produced by Barbara Muschietti (Andy Muschietti’s sister) and Michael Disco, and with Christina Hodson as its credited screenwriter, The Flash has its youthful hero attempting to travel back in time to prevent the murder of his mother (Maribel Verdú). Instead, he finds himself trapped in a parallel reality with another (obnoxious) version of himself, cutesy (American) pop culture references (Back to the Future, Top Gun, etc.), and General Zod threatening Planet Earth – without any active superheroes to stop him.
The Big Question regarding The Flash:
No, not how to defeat the General or why would an Argentinean filmmaker pander to Big Budget Hollywood’s U.S. pop culture nonsense. (We already know the answers to both.)
Our question is:
Why would a supervillain want to be the ruler of a planet that is fast going to rot?
Like, why bother?
Surely there are far healthier planets for Zod to conquer – or destroy. Again, like, why waste time and effort destroying something that is already self-destructing at an alarming rate?
Perhaps we’ll get answers to these difficult philosophical questions in one of the upcoming DC releases.
“The Flash Box Office: ‘Best Superhero Movie’ Tanks” notes
Costly TV spots
For comparison’s sake: Disney spent $24.3 million on TV spots for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and $12.9 million for this weekend’s other box office dud, Elemental.
Also: Paramount spent $17.2 million on TV spots for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, while Sony Pictures spent $10.9 million for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Unless otherwise noted, “The Flash Box Office: ‘Best Superhero Movie’ Tanks” 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 The Flash 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.
Ezra Miller The Flash movie images: DC Studios | Warner Bros.
“The Flash Box Office: ‘Best Superhero Movie’ Tanks” last updated in September 2023.