Dark Phoenix bombed at the box office, and its opening weekend isn't even in the same ballpark as other installments in the franchise. Kicking off in 2000, the X-Men film series helped usher in the ongoing golden age of superhero cinema with a pair of well-received box office hits. Following X2: X-Men United, the quality of the films varied (to say the least) on a film-by-film basis. There were nadirs like X-Men Origins - Wolverine and highs such as X-Men: Days of Future Past. If there was a constant to this wildly inconsistent franchise, it's that 20th Century Fox could always count on them to perform solidly commercially. Even the duds were able to turn a profit.
That all changed with the release of Dark Phoenix, which debuted well below expectations with $33 million domestically. After one weekend, it's estimated the film will lose at least $100 million, marking an unfortunate end to one of the genre's landmark properties. Dark Phoenix was likely foiled by poor word-of-mouth (the reviews rank among the worst in the entire franchise) and a competitive release window the creative team didn't want. Instead of coming out in February and being an offseason blockbuster, Dark Phoenix was released in the summer (thanks to pressuring from James Cameron) and ultimately tanked.
When compared to the other X-Men movies, Dark Phoenix's performance is very alarming. Here are the opening weekend figures for each film, unadjusted for inflation, ranked from best to worst.
- Deadpool - $132.4 million
- Deadpool 2 - $125.5 million
- X-Men: The Last Stand - $102.7 million
- X-Men: Days of Future Past - $90.8 million
- Logan - $88.4 million
- X2: X-Men United - $85.5 million
- X-Men Origins - Wolverine - $85 million
- X-Men: Apocalypse - $65.7 million
- X-Men: First Class - $55.1 million
- X-Men - $54.4 million
- The Wolverine - $53.1 million
- Dark Phoenix - $32.8 million
Ironically, the Deadpool sub-franchise is far and away the most successful. There was a point in time when Fox was hesitant to green light an R-rated superhero comedy, but after the test footage leaked and became a viral sensation, they were convinced there was an audience for Wade Wilson's antics. Now, Deadpool is the lone character from the X-Men franchise that won't be rebooted under the Disney umbrella. As a matter of fact, it's possible the Merc With a Mouth remains separated from the MCU so there aren't any concerns with meshing Deadpool's adult sensibilities with the more family-friendly approach of the larger MCU. Once Upon a Deadpool was a fun novelty act that (partially) illustrated how the character could work in a PG-13 setting, but most would prefer Deadpool continues to embrace the hard R.
As for Dark Phoenix, the gap between it and the original X-Men becomes all the more startling when one considers 19 years separated their respective releases, and Dark Phoenix "benefitted" from premium formats like 3D. It illustrates how severe the lack of interest in the film was, as there was obviously very little demand to see it. Avengers: Endgame, the defining cinematic event of a generation, was a much larger juggernaut than anyone could have anticipated (it made $2 billion in two weeks) and only started to slow down in late May. Especially with Spider-Man: Far From Home right around the corner, mainstream audiences found it difficult to care about Dark Phoenix. Now, it's Marvel Studios' responsibility to reboot the X-Men, but that likely won't happen for a while.
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