Dark Phoenix may end up scoring the all-time worst box office opening weekend for Fox's X-Men film franchise. To say this property has had its fair share of ups and downs during its nearly two-decade existence would be an understatement. In stark contrast from Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe (which has posted a string of consecutive Certified Fresh hits), the X-Men movies tend to be all over the place in terms of quality. For every Days of Future Past or Logan that earns widespread praise, there's a Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine getting panned. One constant throughout the series, however, is that they've all been financially successful.
Case in point: 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse is viewed as one of the lesser X-Men offerings, yet it still brought in $543.9 million worldwide against an $178 million production budget. This ensured a sequel, this summer's Dark Phoenix, would be made. But with the Disney/Fox deal becoming official and the X-Men rights now back at Marvel Studios, Dark Phoenix will be the culmination of Fox's run with the characters. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it'll be sending the mutants out with a bang.
Per THR, Dark Phoenix is expected to earn around $50 million in its first three days, which puts it in the running for the lowest X-Men debut ever. The Wolverine, which debuted with $53.1 million back in 2013, currently has the smallest X-Men opening.
Obviously, it's still early (projections are fluid and these can change when Dark Phoenix is closer to its premiere), but it's still a troubling turn of events. Unadjusted for inflation, the original X-Men film debuted with $54.4 million in 2000. That Dark Phoenix might not top that despite almost 20 years of ticket price increases and premium format rates (like IMAX) raises some red flags. It illustrates Dark Phoenix isn't in high demand, which may stem from the fact it's coming out in the same year some of the biggest comic book adaptations of all-time (Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame) opened and gave everyone their superhero fix (with Spider-Man: Far From Home still to come in July). This also poses questions about how sizable a profit Dark Phoenix can turn; Fox's franchise is a lame duck now, but the studio would still like to earn a return on their $200 million investment.
With this in mind, it's easy to see why Kevin Feige and company are planning to give the X-Men a hard reboot into the MCU at some point. Not only would it make things logistically easier, this iteration of the superhero team has never been the biggest draw at the box office. Both First Class and Apocalypse failed to cross $200 million domestically, and Dark Phoenix will likely follow suit. Unlike Deadpool (star of the two highest-grossing X-Men films), Charles Xavier and friends are in need of a revitalization and will hopefully bounce back strong in the next few years. In the meantime, it's sad to see Fox's X-Men franchise, which arguably kickstarted the superhero movie boom, poised to go down with a whimper like this.