We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson’s case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam. Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he’ll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana can get his hands on Shazam’s magical abilities.
Initial release: April 4, 2019 (Russia)
Director: David Sandberg
Producer: Peter Safran
Screenplay: Henry Gayden
Production companies: Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, Seven Bucks Productions, The Safran Company, DC Films
As of this posting, Warner Bros.’ Shazam! has earned $56.825 million domestic (including $3.3 million in nationwide sneak previews) and $159 million worldwide (including $13.5 million in IMAX alone). Yes, that’s a lower opening than what we’ve been used to when it comes to “big” comic book superhero flicks, as it’s closer to the Fri-Sun frames posted by (not-adjusted-for-inflation) The Wolverine ($53 million in 2013), Ant-Man ($58 million in 2015) and Green Lantern ($53 million in 2011). Actually, in terms of DC or Marvel superhero properties, it’s the lowest Fri-Sun launch since Fantastic Four ($25 million) in 2015. But here’s the kicker: the New Line Cinema release only cost $90 million to produce and, due to the nature of the property, it may qualify as DC Films’ biggest turning point.
We’ve fortunately had very few folks arguing that the debut was disappointing or a miss merely based on the raw number. We had a surprisingly large number of folks arguing that Aquaman’s $72 million launch (again, counting sneak previews) was disappointing because it was a lot lower than the likes of Wonder Woman ($103.5 million in 2017) and Man of Steel ($128 million in 2013), seemingly indifferent to how the Christmas season box office operates. $1.1 billion worldwide later, maybe they’ve learned their lesson. It’s worth noting that Ant-Man eventually legged it to $519 million worldwide on a $130 million budget while The Wolverine earned $412 million worldwide on a $130 million, the second biggest gross for an X-Men movie at the time.
Shazam! stumbled in China, earning $31 million from a $15.9 million opening day. If it legs like Batman v Superman (1.76x its $54 million launch), it’ll end with $51 million. There is no law saying that China has to like every major Hollywood tentpole and there’s no law saying that otherwise successful biggies have to score huge in China. China often is less a hitmaker and more a steroid to inflate the totals of already successful movies. Aquaman and Transformers: Dark of the Moon both got to $1.1 billion worldwide thanks to an over/under $300 million haul in China, but both big-budget flicks would still have passed $850 million global without a dime from China. The David F. Sandberg-directed fantasy is cheap enough that it requires no Chinese bailout.
Say what you will about the micromanaged ensemble flicks (Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League), but DC Films is now batting 1.000 over the last three solo superhero movies. Throw in the less-successful Man of Steel ($668 million in 2013 with mixed-negative reviews and a frontloaded run) and they’re still batting 0.75. It’s not quite apples to apples, but the first four MCU solo flicks were Iron Man (yay!), Incredible Hulk (boo!), Iron Man 2 (eh…), and Thor (yay!). Moreover, the MCU began back when Thor’s $449 million worldwide cume would make it the biggest comic book superhero movie ever without Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man or Wolverine. Captain America: The First Avenger could be a big hit with $371 million worldwide on a $140 million budget.
Presuming it has halfway decent legs here and abroad (it opens in Japan on April 19), the film marks a real watershed moment for the beleaguered DC Films brand. Shazam! opened with $159 million worldwide despite being based on a B-level (or C-level?) character and lacking much in the way of “butts in the seats” star power. The opening was above the over/under $45 million tracking to the point where we must presume that the overwhelmingly positive reviews (91% fresh and 7.2/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and word-of-mouth screenings and sneaks moved the needle. Moreover, and this is key, this weekend’s release is the third straight good-to-great DC Films solo superhero movie. After Wonder Woman and Aquaman, I’d argue Shazam! overperformed BECAUSE it was a DC Films flick.