Weekend Box Office: ‘Madame Web’ struggles to get off the ground, ‘One Love’ soars

Sophia Wesley
Sophia Wesley
6 Min Read

“Madame Web” swung to No. 2 at the US box office its opening week, but landed with just $26.2 million in gross domestic sales, according to Comscore estimates Monday, compared to the strong opening for “Bob Marley: One Love.”

The latest in a pattern of increasingly anemic live-action comic book adaptations, “Madame Web” now holds the record for the lowest-ever superhero box office opening from Sony Pictures.

The studio has held the film rights for Spider-Man since 1999. Although it agreed to share the rights with Disney’s Marvel Studios in 2015, allowing Spidey to catapult into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony still holds the rights to a wide portfolio of less popular Spider-Man-adjacent characters like Venom, Morbius, Spider-Woman and Madame Web.

“Lesser known characters from the comic book realm can still succeed when the ingredients come together, not unlike the way original films can stand out in a moviegoing world often dominated by franchises,” said BoxOffice Pro chief analyst Shawn Robbins. “The roots of Madame Web’s struggles are multifaceted, but they boil down to two factors: audiences are increasingly selective with the superhero content they choose to spend money on in 2024 and this particular film was met with frequently negative feedback throughout marketing.”

After years of Marvel-mania, culminating in the record-breaking success of the Avengers franchise with “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” theatergoers have started to bemoan the oversaturation of superhero projects across studios. In November, “The Marvels” saw a lackluster $47 million in domestic sales its opening weekend, and DC’s “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” opened in December to a feeble $27.6 million. “Aquaman” was distributed by Warner Bros., which shares the same parent company as CNN.

Some industry analysts say that the problem is not superhero movies as a genre, but the quality of the movie itself.

“Offering up a great film is really the key since the core audience for these films are not mere spectators but passionate enthusiasts who need more than some cookie-cutter marketing message to get them in the door,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “That said, ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ looks to show that there are exceptions to every rule with an expected massive debut later this summer.”

While Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” 1&2, “Venom” and its sequel saw opening weekends ranging between $62 million and $90 million, 2022’s “Morbius” opened with a disastrous $39 million. All Spider-Man and Venom movies grossed more than $200 million during their theatrical runs. It’s still too soon to estimate gross domestic sales for “Madame Web,” but, by the time it exited theaters, “Morbius” had made just $73 million.

Typically, holiday weekends are coveted real estate for movie releases, because audiences have more time to find their way to the theater. But “Madame Web,” which released February 14, struggled to gain upward momentum even along its six-day opening, which straddled two holidays: Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day.

‘One Love’ strikes a chord

Taking advantage of the same six-day stretch, “Bob Marley: One Love,” a musical biopic of the reggae icon, opened to a strong $52 million, according to Comscore estimates, cinching the top spot for the weekend.

“A well-known historical figure can be as good as an established franchise brand when it comes to getting moviegoers’ attention, so there is an inherent familiarity of subject matter when it comes to biopics,” said Robbins. “The release was smartly timed around Valentine’s Day with Marley’s life-affirming philosophies driving the heart of marketing.”

“One Love” follows a recent pattern of high-performing music-centric movies, added Dergarabedian. Recent months have seen musical box office hits like “Wonka,” “Mean Girls,” and successful concert films from both Beyonce and Taylor Swift.

“The Marley film was perfectly timed and rode a wave of popularity all the way from its Valentines Day release through Monday, and the studio really knocked it out of the park with their marketing strategy and by delivering a film that fans of all ages gravitated toward due to the enduring appeal of Bob Marley’s music, message and legacy,” Dergarabedian said. “The film should have long-term success and keep ‘Jammin’ toward even bigger box office heights in the coming weeks.”

According to data from Comscore, the film opened with $14 million in domestic sales, the third-highest-grossing opening day for a musical biopic in the past 35 years, unadjusted for inflation. 2015’s “Straight Out of Compton” still holds the No. 1 spot with $24 million, followed by 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with $18 million.

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