Racking up poor showings, Disney’s Marvel faces superhero franchise fatigue

Thursday, November 16, 2023 by Snacks

Avengers disassembling… Marvel movies have averaged 17% of US box-office sales in recent years. But after raking in $30B over 15 years, Disney’s Marvel Studios is struggling to overcome its latest bad guy: franchise fatigue. The MCU just logged its worst-ever opening weekend with “The Marvels,” pulling in $47M domestically on a $250M budget. Days ahead of the flop, Disney boss Bob Iger diagnosed the studio with a quantity-over-quality problem. Now Marvel’s slashed its 2024 releases from three to one.

  • Bleak-quels: “The Marvels” is a follow-up to “Captain Marvel,” which was anything but a flop, earning $100M more in its first weekend than its sequel. The latest “Thor” and “Ant-Man” movies rank among the MCU’s worst-reviewed flicks.

  • Delay-Man: The next “Captain America” has been pushed nine months, while “Blade” — originally planned for this year — is scheduled for 2025 on a tight (for Marvel) $100M budget.

  • Headwinds: The director of Marvel’s 2023 bright spot, “Guardians of the Galaxy 3,” is now running rival Warner Bros. DC Studios. Meanwhile, Jonathan Majors (the MCU’s next star villain) is facing a high-profile trial over assault charges.

Spandex can only stretch so far… In case you haven’t noticed, Marvel’s pretty prolific. The studio’s released at least three films a year since 2016 (exception: 2020). Catching up on the MCU (33 films, ~22 series) would take a new fan 5+ days. Pressuring the pace: a Disney mandate that there should never be a lapse in new superhero content. The resulting workload led to critically panned CGI, and Marvel’s VFX workers voted to unionize in August.


Even superheroes need time off… Poor openings and bad reviews reflect a loss of brand trust from once obsessive Marvel fans that has Disney worried. The entertainment powerhouse is betting that more distance between releases can give audiences and creatives a chance to recover from spandex burnout.

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