The Hellboy reboot bombed at the box office during its opening weekend, but why did that happen? Opening in theaters this past weekend, the film looked to give the property a fresh start on the big screen. Guillermo del Toro helmed two Hellboy movies starring Ron Perlman in the mid-2000s, but a third installment never materialized. Instead, David Harbour was brought in to headline a new, R-rated interpretation directed by Neil Marshall. There was obviously the intent here to launch a new series, but that seems incredibly unlikely to happen now.
Unfortunately for Hellboy, it was widely panned by critics, who felt the film was a surprisingly dull and joyless adventure. To make matters worse, it fared very poorly at the box office. It was always projected to post low numbers, but the actuals were well under the initial estimates. Hellboy unceremoniously came in third for the weekend, earning just $12 million domestically. There are a few reasons to explain this turn of events.
For starters, Lionsgate did not choose the best release date for Hellboy. This spring has been a busy time for comic book adaptations. Back in March, Captain Marvel dominated the marketplace and became the latest member of the $1 billion club. A month later, DC's Shazam hit the scene and also performed well, earning enough money at the outset to warrant a sequel. Of course, Avengers: Endgame is right around the corner and poised to be a monumental cinematic event. Endgame is currently selling advanced tickets at an unprecedented rate that will shatter records. Whereas in the early part of 2019 there was a void in crowd-pleasing genre entertainment, audiences have a glut of options to choose from now.
What's more is that Hellboy has always been a lower-profile property, especially when compared to Marvel and DC. Del Toro's movies weren't exactly box office hits, tallying just $259.7 million worldwide combined. It's true they came out before the full-blown explosion of the genre and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's still hard to make a case there was a ton of interest in seeing this character back on the big screen. The most successful Hollywood reboots in recent years tend to be for brands where there's a sizable following that's reached the mainstream, like Star Trek or Batman, and producers know there's a large enough built-in fan base. Hellboy definitely has passionate supporters, but even in a time where Aquaman can make $1 billion, the character never caught on with general audiences.
It also goes without saying word-of-mouth played a role in this as well. If reactions had been more positive, then Hellboy likely would have made more money at the box office. Because the reviews were so bad, moviegoers felt less inclined to check it out in theaters. There are, obviously, franchises that are essentially critic-proof and will bring in cash no matter what, but Hellboy clearly doesn't fit that bill. This film needed to be well-received in order to have a fruitful debut. But now, it's in a position where it may no be able to turn a profit - despite costing just $50 million to produce. It's not going to have strong legs, and Endgame is only a week away.