One of the most controversial superhero adaptations during its pre-release phase, Twentieth Century Fox's reboot of the Fantastic Four property has turned into an absolute disaster now that it's finally been released. The film has been slated in reviews and is currently the recipient of toxic word-of-mouth (becoming the worst rated Marvel movie ever), and that reception has had an extremely negative impact on the film's appeal with general audiences.
Heading into the weekend, analysts had projected Fantastic Four to gross a respectable $46 million over its first three days. But after the film posted a weak $2.7 million during its advanced screenings, those estimates went down to around $30 million. Now - continuing a pattern with this film - the reality has taken a turn for the worse.
Variety is reporting that Fantastic Four has posted a downright dreadful $26.2 million for its opening weekend. That is the lowest debut for a Marvel movie since Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance bombed with $22.1 million in 2012. Jeff Bock, an analyst at Exhibitor Relations, aptly called the situation a "nightmare" for Fox.
[UPDATE: The overseas box office numbers are now in as well, and according to THR Fantastic Four has scraped a meager $34.1 million across 43 markets, with a total global gross so far of $60.3 million. Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson said: "While we're disappointed, we remain committed to these characters and we have a lot to look forward to in our Marvel universe."]
The studio had hoped to launch a companion franchise to their successful X-Men film series with Fantastic Four and went so far as to date a sequel that will now likely never come to be. There was also some discussion about possibly crossing over the new Fantastic Four with the X-Men, but that is now another project we'll never probably see come into fruition.
Typically, studios reboot movie franchises so they can improve upon the previous iteration and correct any wrongs, which hopefully will lead to increased box office profits (see: The Dark Knight trilogy). Further adding salt into Fox's wound is that the Fantastic Four revival - despite having a decade of ticket price inflation to its benefit - could not top the opening numbers posted by the maligned Fantastic Four films from the mid-2000s. In 2005, the first Fantastic Four grossed $56 million in its first three days, and 2007's Rise of the Silver Surfer sequel posted an even better $58 million. That disparity shows just how far Marvel's First Family has fallen in a relatively short amount of time.
It's hard to say at this juncture just how disastrous this will end up being for Fox. It was reported that the production budget (which we should note does not include marketing costs) was in the area of $120 million. However, that was before it came out that Fox allegedly slashed the budget during principal photography and forced director Josh Trank to cut out several action sequences. It's all hearsay for now, but in light of Trank's now infamous tweet on the matter, there's probably some truth to the rumors. Either way, Fantastic Four is shaping up to be a loss for the studio.
The movie's chances of being a hit domestically are kaput, but there is still a chance it can be saved by the international grosses. Those figures are not in yet, and in the past the worldwide totals have been able to push a middling film into the black. But even if foreign audiences are to raise Fantastic Four's financial standing, they would have to turn out in droves in order to raise the gross to a level acceptable for Fox. At the end of the day, the studio is going to have to take its lumps and chalk this one up in the loss column.
Fantastic Four is now in theaters. Deadpool opens February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit on October 7, 2016; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; Fantastic Four 2 on June 9, 2017; and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.