Did someone say superhero fatigue? Not with James Gunn at the helm.
In its second week in theaters, the director proved with “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” that audiences are still willing to venture out to see costumed heroes on the big screen. Ticket sales for most blockbuster movies drop 50% to 70% between the opening weekend and the second week. Gunn’s third Guardians of the Galaxy story only dropped 47.6%, indicating that even casual fans think it’s a must-see movie.
This is the smallest second-week drop for a Marvel Cinematic Universe film since 2018’s “Black Panther,” which fell just 44.7%, according to data from Comscore. It’s the third-best second-week drop of any MCU film since 2008, just behind “Thor,” which dropped 47.2% during its second week in 2011.
“Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” grossed $62 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, bringing total domestic draws to $214.7 million. Worldwide, the film has grossed just under $530 million at the box office.
In comparison, the first movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” grossed $773.3 million worldwide during its 2014 run and “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” grossed $863.6 million during its 2017 run.
The strong box office for “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” appears to quell fears of superhero fatigue at the box office, even slightly disney CEO Bob Iger has publicly expressed concerns. The executive has openly questioned whether Marvel should continue making third and fourth films for established legacy characters, rather than exploring new heroes, anti-heroes and villains.
His remarks, made in March at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, came on the heels of the disappointing box office performances of “Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
The third “Ant-Man” saw a 69.8% drop from its first week to its second, the biggest drop of any MCU film. Meanwhile, the fourth standalone “Thor” saw a 67.6% drop, the third highest of any movie in the MCU, according to Comscore data. 2021’s “Black Widow” has the second sharpest drop at 67.8%, partly because the film was released in the middle of the pandemic and partly because it was delivered to theaters and Disney+ on the same day.
Second week numbers are sometimes more important than opening weekend data. Showbiz analysts often take this drop as an indication of whether a movie will have longevity at the box office or die out quickly.
“It’s a win for Disney, Marvel, James Gunn, theaters and audiences across the board for such an important tentpole in 2023 to showcase the power of high-quality blockbuster cinema and why opening weekends don’t always tell the full story,” said Shawn Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com.
Major tentpole features from Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe often see ticket sales drop by more than 50% at the box office after reaching sky-high opening weekend numbers. While those types of movies can progress toward multibillion-dollar or more theatrical productions, this statistic can indicate whether word-of-mouth is drawing new audiences to theaters or whether interest is waning.
“As a pure reflection of positive audience sentiment for a movie, nothing says a movie hits audiences like a modest second weekend drop,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
The release of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” also marks the symbolic end of Gunn’s time with one comic book studio and the beginning of his reign in another. Gunn was named co-CEO of along with producer Peter Safran Warner Bros. Discovery‘s DC Studios last year.
Because of this, the success of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” actually bodes well for DC’s future. It shows that Gunn has his finger on the pulse and the potential to deliver similar results in his new studio.
Gunn, of course, has already dipped a toe into the DC Universe with 2021’s “The Suicide Squad.” The movie grossed less than $200 million worldwide as it was released simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters during the heat of the pandemic, but was well received by critics and audiences alike.
Gunn and Safran have developed a 10-year plan to revive their TV and movie franchises, including new spins on Superman and Batman. Gunn himself will write and direct “Superman: Legacy.”