After Venom shocked us all by snagging an $80 million opening weekend, much of the talk online was about how the Tom Hardy vehicle’s success would be short-lived and that it would surely take a big (-60% or more) drop in its second weekend. First of all, a big comic book superhero movie falling 60% or more in its second weekend is no longer considered a major issue. Second, just in the last three years, we’ve seen a handful of big superhero flicks take arguable nose-dives in weekend two only to reassert themselves over the next month for an eventually happy ending.
So, for my own research, I dug up an old list I made three years ago for the 16-biggest second-weekend drops for comic book superhero movies. To my amusement, we’ve actually had a handful of new entries on the list. Moreover, the likes of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Deadpool 2 and Suicide Squad (along with Ant-Man and the Wasp, which dropped “only” 61% this summer) recovered accordingly and ended up with perfectly acceptable ($300 million+) domestic totals. So, for those who are curious, here are the 22-biggest second-weekend drops for major comic book superhero movies.
22. Spider-Man: Homecoming (62.1%)
Opening weekend: $117m Second weekend: $44.2 Total domestic gross: $334.2m
One of the reasons I dove back into this list is because of films like Spider-Man: Homecoming, which suffered what once would have been considered huge second-weekend drops but A) were essentially considered par-for-the-course and B) recovered with a vengeance after the second weekend to end up with a strong and leggy domestic finish. Such is the case with Jon Watts’ MCU Spidey reboot. The well-received film dropped 62% in weekend two, which is a record for an MCU movie. But thanks to strong reviews, good word-of-mouth and the total absence of any live-action kid-friendly biggies between mid-July and early November (Thor: Ragnarok), the film stuck around and legged it to a fine 2.85x weekend multiplier and a rousing $334m domestic cume.
21. Dredd (2012) -62.3%
Opening weekend: $6.2m Second weekend: $2.3m Total domestic gross: $13.4m
Six years later, there are those who rather love this cult picture who swear that a sequel will bring in the kind of numbers that this reboot never did. But while the reviews were surprisingly solid, the Lionsgate release, R-rated and in 3D, proved that the second time was not the charm for this British comic book saga. Dredd became a classic example of Comic-Con buzz not translating to mainstream appeal. In terms of budget versus worldwide gross, even the reviled 1995 Sylvester Stallone entry ($113m on a $90m budget) was a bigger success, although both were incontestable flops.
20. Batman Robin (1997) -63.3%
Opening weekend: $42.8m Second weekend: $15.7m Total domestic gross: $107m
If Batman Robin didn’t set the record for the biggest second-weekend plunge back in 1997 (and it was just 48th at the time), it was surely the most high-profile movie to ever dip below the dreaded 60% mark. We like to blame the Internet for killing the Joel Schumacher sequel, but it still debuted with one of the top-ten biggest debut weekends of all time back in June of 1997. So, to paraphrase that famous closing line, it wasn’t the Internet that got him, it was word-of-mouth that killed the beast.
19. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) -64.2%
Opening weekend: $90.8m Second weekend: $32.5m Total domestic gross: $233.9m
This is the first film on this list that is unquestionably a hit, and it won’t be the last X-Men movie we see here today. As long-lasting as the X-Men franchise has been for 20th Century Fox, they have some of the worst legs of any major franchise outside of the Harry Potter and Twilight films. Even with eight years of inflation and a 3D bump, this film still couldn’t reach the opening weekend and domestic total of X-Men: The Last Stand ($102m/$234m), although its $748m worldwide cume (and smaller second-weekend drop) surely made up for it.
18. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) -65.3%
Opening weekend: $65.7m Second weekend: $22.8m Total domestic gross: $155.4m
X-Men: Days of Future Past earned strong reviews and was unquestionably a big hit. It earned $234 million domestic and $748m worldwide. However, Bryan Singer’s next X-Men movie took a similar drop and had a similarly frontloaded run, but with terrible reviews and a much smaller opening weekend. Fox screened this one early only to get sandbagged with generally negative critical notices, and a film that was sold as “the 1990’s X-Men toon come to life!” was revealed as yet another “Magneto has a sad and lifts stuff” melodrama. Cue a final domestic total lower than the unadjusted $157m gross of the first X-Men. With a $121m gross in China and thus a $544m worldwide cume, it was a rare case of a big budget Hollywood flick that really did get saved by China.
17. Deadpool 2 (2018) -65.4%
Opening weekend: $125.5m Second weekend: $43.463m Total domestic gross: $318.4m
This is another example of a movie that took a big drop but was still a (comparatively) leggy hit. Deadpool 2 earned solid reviews and a superb $126m Fri-Sun frame, but (for the second year in a row) the Memorial Day weekend did not provide a cushion for a big Fox franchise title. Nonetheless, unlike Alien: Covenant, the Ryan Reynolds flick stuck around and ended up with a solid 2.5x weekend multiplier and a domestic gross essentially tied with the unadjusted domestic finish of Iron Man. If Venom sinks like a stone this weekend, I imagine Sony will be pointing at Deadpool 2 as a reason not to panic. And they would be right to do so.
16. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) -65.5%
Opening weekend: $58m Second weekend: $20m Total domestic gross: $131m
Okay, so the lightning fast collapse of this second Tim Story film is probably part of what led Fox to not go forward with the franchise. In retrospect, it’s a classic Tomb Raider Trap scenario, as this sequel was arguably a better film than the first but only the die-hards showed up, with casual audiences sitting it out or catching up with it on DVD or Blu-Ray due to their indifference towards the original. Still, I bet Fox would love for a $287m worldwide cume for their current Fantastic Four movie, to say nothing of that $58m debut weekend.
15. Green Lantern (2011) -66.1%
Opening weekend: $53.1m Second weekend: $18m Total domestic gross: $116m
It was a weird thing to be discussing a $53 million debut weekend for a B-list DC Comics character as an unmitigated disaster, but we all knew what was coming. The Ryan Reynolds film got terrible reviews, had a poor weekend multiplier, and had no positive buzz coming out of the weekend. But I will be honest, I’m still a little shocked by how quickly it collapsed, and it didn’t even make up for it overseas during a summer when 3D was still all the rage. In some ways, Green Lantern is the least likely mega-flop of the modern comic book age (I’d imagine its unapologetic fantasy would be more easily digested today), but that’s a conversation for another day.
14. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) -66.9%
Opening weekend: $102.75m Second weekend: $34m Total domestic gross: $234.3m
It is a little ironic that the two biggest grossing X-Men pictures, both here and abroad, also suffered the largest second weekend declines of the 15-year old franchise. This third film scored what was at the time the fourth-biggest Fri-Sun debut of all time over Memorial Day 2006, but Memorial Day does not tend to be a terribly leggy weekend on which to launch. Fan hatred for this Brett Ratner entry, which was rushed into production to beat Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns to theaters, has clouded the notion that this was once by-far the most successful X-Men film of all. Of course, I can say the same thing about Spider-Man 3, which is still the most successful, and probably will forever be the most successful Spider-Man film.
13. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) -67.2%
Opening weekend: $13.3m Second weekend: $4.3m Total domestic gross: $28.7m
The original Kick-Ass was not a monster hit, operating as a classic example of Comic-Con hype not necessarily translating into mainstream interest. But the film still made around $98 million worldwide on a $50m budget, so the franchise became one of Universal’s many hand-me-down franchises. But piss-poor reviews and viewer indifference sunk this ship. The fans showed up on opening weekend, accompanied by no one else, and nobody liked what they got and the floor fell through. The first film is a solid look at real-world crime fighting and the morality of public interference. But this terrible sequel had nothing to offer except muted shock value, and thus it was gone from theaters in a flash.
12. Suicide Squad (2016) -67.4%
Opening weekend: $133.6m Second weekend: $43.5m Total domestic gross: $325.1m
We critics savaged this heavily recut/restricted David Ayer supervillain team-up flick, but fans (and general audiences) flocked to the first chance at seeing a live-action Harley Quinn and a live-action Deadshot (played by Margot Robbie and Will Smith no less) on the big screen. The film took a similar drop to Batman v Superman, but it stuck around due to being the last big movie of the summer. Or maybe, come what may, general audiences just enjoyed it more than Dawn of Justice. In the end, shock of shocks, it turned out to be leggier than Captain America: Civil War. It’s another recent example of a big comic book superhero movie dropping hard in weekend two but rallying back to life over the next month.
11. Punisher War Zone (2008) -67.6%
Opening weekend: $4.2m Second weekend: $1.3m Total domestic gross: $8m
This is the second-cheapest film on the list, and the second-lowest grossing as well, but the $35 million production still had real consequences. This was the third attempt to jump-start a Punisher franchise and crushed what should damn-well have been a promising career for Lexi Alexander. She has since become one of the loudest voices about gender inequity in Hollywood. I didn’t see a bunch of Internet think-pieces trumpeting why she should be given a second chance and/or a shot a redemption back in 2008. Anyway, this one was another victim of bad buzz, with trouble on the set and rumors that it might go PG-13. For fans of the character, Ray Stevenson is often considered the definitive onscreen portrayal, all due respect to Jon Bernthal. That’s a statement I’ll agree with even as it’s not my favorite Punisher movie.
10. Watchmen (2009) -67.7%
Opening weekend: $55.2m Second weekend: $17.8m Total domestic gross: $107.5m
Like Green Lantern, this was a case of a major cult comic book movie opening to what should have been blockbuster numbers but getting tagged as a whiff anyway. And again, the writing was on the wall. Zack Snyder’s faithful-to-a-fault adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel barely pleased the fans and offered little to those not already in the fold, so it dropped like a stone, barely cracking $107 million from a $55.2m debut weekend. The film’s $185m worldwide total wasn’t nearly enough for the $130m film. Although in retrospect, it’s a credit to Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. that they opened a 2.75 hour, hard-R, ultraviolent comic book epic based on a cult title to $55m in the first place.
9. Man of Steel (2013) -67.9%
Opening weekend: $128.6m Second weekend: $41.2m Total domestic gross: $291m
Yes, I am counting the film’s full opening weekend, including the $12 million worth of Thursday previews that inexplicably were counted separately this time out. This superhero reboot scored the second-biggest debut ever for a non-sequel (behind The Hunger Games) and what at the time was the biggest June debut. But mezzo word-of-mouth and surprisingly robust competition in the form of World War Z ($66m debut) and Monsters University ($82m debut) proved too much for Superman. The film was a hit to be sure ($668m worldwide on a $225m budget), but lukewarm reception led to turning the would-be Man of Steel 2 into what is now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
8. Fantastic Four (2015) -68.2%
Opening weekend: $25.7m Second weekend: $8.2m Total domestic gross: $56.117m
When I first did this list three years ago, it was in anticipation of the second weekend for Fox’s disastrous attempt to reboot Marvel’s first family. The much-retooled (and eventually denounced by its own director) grimdark origin story was shredded by critics and ignored by indifferent audiences for whom the mere notion of a Fantastic Four movie was not enough of a draw. With bad reviews and poor audience buzz, there was little reason not to expect a massive drop. And sure enough, it sank like a stone in weekend two. Its awful $56m domestic cume is right between the unadjusted opening weekends of Tim Story’s Fantastic Four ($55m in 2005) and Tim Story’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ($58m in 2007).
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) -69%
Opening weekend: $85m Second weekend: $26.4m Total domestic gross: $179.8m
Not even a DVD-quality work-print of the film getting leaked online a full month before the release could stop this troubled Hugh Jackman spin-off from scoring a massive Fri-Sun debut to kick off the summer of 2009. But word-of-mouth was as poor for audiences as it was for critics, and J.J. Abrams’s critically-acclaimed and crowd-pleasing Star Trek quickly became the main event of the early summer. Ironically, while Star Trek crushed Wolverine in America ($257m vs. $179m), X-Men Origins clobbered the sci-fi reboot overseas and they both made almost identical grosses ($385m for Star Trek, $373m for Wolverine) on near-identical $150m budgets. The poor reception for this one arguably led to the prequel/reboot that is X-Men: First Class.
6. Elektra (2005) -69%
Opening weekend: $12.8m Second weekend: $3.9m Total domestic gross: $24.4m
As I wrote last month, Jennifer Garner’s career as a leading lady never really recovered after this legendary whiff, which is a shame as it was something of a contractual obligation. This Daredevil-spin off is indeed terrible, and its artistic failures (it’s cheap, it’s small-scale, it feels watered-down) are dwarfed by its overall failure (it earned just $53m on a $43m budget) and its impact in terms of female-centric superhero movies. In short, this was the last outright comic book superhero movie centered around a woman. And really, there have only been three so-called “big” ones, Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra. Heck, if you count non-superhero comic book movies with females, that still only gets you Barb Wire, Tank Girl, and Red Sonja. As bad as that track record is, it’s hard to defend Hollywood’s skittishness when the Hitman video game is getting another shot at a franchise.
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) -69.1%
Opening weekend: $166m Second weekend: $51.3m Total domestic gross: $330.3m
The poorly-reviewed DC Films backdoor pilot still assured general audiences that it contained IMAX-friendly spectacle, a big Batman/Superman fight scene and at least a little bit of kick-ass Wonder Woman action. So, the curious joined the hardcore fans for a whopping $81 million opening day and $166m debut weekend. But audiences didn’t like the long, grimdark, violent and hilariously not-kid-friendly superhero sequel any more than critics did, so it sank hard and never recovered. Even with less competition than Man of Steel, it failed to earn even 2x its admittedly massive opening weekend and resulted in the next wave of DC Films being heavily retooled. Never has such a high-grossing film ($873m worldwide) been viewed as a franchise-threatening disaster.
4. Jonah Hex (2010) -69.7%
Opening weekend: $5.3m Second weekend: $1.62m Total domestic gross: $10.5m
Speaking of gender inequities, Josh Brolin, arguably through no fault of his own, is constantly given major leading roles and would-be franchise opportunities (for which he usually delivers strong performances) while proving again and again that he cannot open a movie. And this heavily reshot, uber-troubled comic book production is a prime example. So disastrous was this Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor production that we didn’t even get a trailer until six weeks until the release. As much as I love the notion of not spending a year offering a stream of marketing materials, this one had the stench of doom all over it. And the final cut, barely comprehensible, ran just 73 minutes before credits. Ironically, there is a kernel of a frighteningly ahead-of-its-time idea (the fears of a militarized Tea Party type terrorist organization), but the film itself is something of a wash.
3. Hulk (2003) -69.7%
Opening weekend: $62.1m Second weekend: $18.8m Total domestic gross: $132.1m
There was a time back in early 2003 when it looked like Hulk was going to be one of the biggest grossing movies of the summer. Ang Lee was coming off Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the film had a great teaser attached a year-in-advance to Spider-Man, and the buzz was that this was a more cerebral comic book movie that still provided the destruction porn fans desired. And even with mixed reviews and a marketing campaign that didn’t set anyone’s hair on fire (I think I was the only one who liked the Super Bowl spot), the film still broke a record for June with a $62 million debut weekend. But it also set something of a record for a large-scale collapse, as audiences and fans didn’t care for the character-driven approach and the film wasn’t good enough to justify the lack of core elements. Twelve years later, it is the epitome of “noble failure,” and it’s certainly better than The Incredible Hulk.
2. Hellboy II (2008) -70.7%
Opening weekend: $34.5m Second weekend: $10.1m Total domestic gross: $75.9m
But what a minute? Hellboy II is one of the very best recent comic book superhero movies ever made, and surely one of the best comic book superhero sequels of all time? It had terrific reviews, a terrific marketing campaign which used Universal’s NBC properties for cross-promotion, a strong opening weekend, and solid word-of-mouth for a powerhouse fantasy adventure that pleased fans and general moviegoers alike! How in the world did Guillermo del Toro’s gothic fantasy get kneecapped so badly in its second weekend? Well, go look up what opened during Hellboy II‘s second weekend. Go on, I’ll wait. Yeah, Hellboy II may very well have been a one-weekend wonder, a “for fans only” affair even absent the earthquake-level competition in its second weekend. But against the might of Mama Mia! and Space Chimps, it never had a chance.
1. Steel (1997) -78%
Opening weekend: $870,068 Second weekend: $191,667 Total domestic gross: $1.7m
The biggest drop on the list is also the lowest-grossing film on the list, as well as the cheapest at just $16 million to produce. In retrospect, it’s a little lucky that the so-called comic book film survived the miserable summer of 1997, with Batman Robin, Spawn, and Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel polluting our multiplexes in a brief period. Blade would arrive to save the genre the next year. This film was, of course, a super-duper loose adaptation of the John Henry Irons arc, as Mr. Irons was one of four would-be “replacement” Superman figures that took over in the comics for a period after the Man of Steel was killed by Doomsday.
This film shares no connection to the source material. The good news is that it attempts to make some points about how rich white guys flood the inner cities with weapons and then profit in the bloodshed. The bad news is that this film is just violent enough to nab a PG-13, which created a picture too violent for kids but too juvenile and/or unappealing for older kids or adults. The result was a movie for no one, and it remains one of the lowest grossing comic book movies ever made.
Okay, there are a few other “not quite superhero” comic book movies of note. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, a terrible supernatural thriller with a game Brandon Routh, opened with $754k in 2011 and then dropped an eye-popping 87% the next weekend. Barb Wire (sci-fi Casablanca with Pamela Anderson) dropped 67.7% in its second weekend while the likes of Priest (-69.2%), Tank Girl (-65.3%), and Sin City 2 (-64.8%), brought shame to the comic book fantasy genre.
If I had the time to make this a top-29 list, the next ones would be TMNT (-61.9%), Ant-Man and the Wasp (-61.6% just this summer), Catwoman (-61.5%), Spider-Man 3 (-61.5% off a then-record $151m weekend), The Dark Knight Rises (-61.4% off a $160m debut weekend), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (-61.2%) and Ghost in the Shell (-60.9%). For those asking, The Incredible Hulk dropped a “mere” 60.1% in its second weekend while the first Fantastic Four dropped 59%, which would be relatively normal for big comic book movies (see – The Wolverine, Civil War and Age of Ultron) in this front-loaded age.
Looking at the films in question, comic book superhero flicks that have dropped 62% or more in weekend two, we have three DC Films flicks, three Zack Snyder movies, five X-Men movies and just one MCU title. By the way, Star Wars: The Last Jedi plunged a massive 67.5% on its second weekend, partially because Christmas Eve was right in the middle of the weekend and because the schools didn’t let out until its second Monday of release. But the Christmas-to-New Years frame gave it an extra boost (-27% in weekend three) and it still pulled a 2.8x multiplier from its $220 million debut weekend for a $620m domestic cume.
Venom may or may not take a big dive this weekend. The questions are A) how big? and B) if it ends up playing like a recent comic book movie or a recent Alien or Predator flick?