Less than a month after its release, Dark Phoenix has already set a lot of unfortunate records. It's the most under-performing film in the entire X-Men franchise, and it only earned a series-low $33 million in its opening weekend. The film's second week went even worse, and it is already beginning to be pulled from theaters after only three weeks of release.
Although Dark Phoenix isn't going to be the worst-performing superhero film in recent memory, it's on track to actually be the biggest flop of the year so far, and there's a solid chance Fox's X-Men finale could end up as the biggest cinematic bomb of 2019.
Ashes To Ashes
Dark Phoenix was never expected to be a smashing success, but its weak opening is still something of a surprise. The mainline X-Men films had been faltering before this, with 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse making far less than preceding installments. However, that film's numbers were respectable next to the unmitigated disaster that has been Dark Phoenix. By this point in its release, X-Men: Apocalypse had earned $402 million. Writer/director Simon Kinberg's sequel has earned just $233 million globally.
For comparison's sake, Logan earned more than $100 million domestically in under a week of release. Meanwhile, Deadpool 2 went on to become the biggest financial hit in Fox's X-Men franchise, thanks in part to the PG-13 re-release of the film around the holidays.
Superhero fatigue didn't tank the film, either. Avengers: Endgame is set to surpass Avatar as the most successful film of all time, and even non-Marvel superhero films like Venom and Aquaman have succeeded on a global scale within the past year. So why was Dark Phoenix such a box-office bomb?
Dark Phoenix's Biggest Loss Isn't Mystique
Dark Phoenix certainly isn't the only box office bomb of 2019. Hellboy only earned $40 million on a $50 million budget. Replicas, a little-seen sci-fi film, had an even worst box office draw, earning only $8.6 million against a budget of $30 million. Potential blockbusters like Men in Black: International and Godzilla: King of the Monsters have disappointed too, but none of those films will end up losing $100 million.
At this point, Dark Phoenix is going to be a major financial loser. The film has a purported budget of $200 million. Marketing and distribution are estimated to have an additional expense of $150 million, raising the total cost of the film to $350 million.
While initial expectations suggested Dark Phoenix would at least earn back that $350 million, the film has grossed only $233 million to date, and it's already being removed from theaters to make way for more successful releases. The situation is so dire that Kinberg, its writer and director, has been openly apologetic for the film. If Fox hadn't already been bought out by Disney, it would be time to worry, and it certainly doesn't bode well for the only other Fox X-Men movie remaining on the slate, New Mutants.
Phoenix's Dark Destiny
Looking ahead, there's nothing else coming out this year that could reach Dark Phoenix's financial loss. Child's Play and Toy Story 4 are both already successes for their respective studios (on far different scales, of course). Disney has dominated the box office, and will likely continue to do so, with The Lion King, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker arriving later this year.
All of 2019's other upcoming big-budget films either have built-in audience engagement, with next week's Spider-Man: Far From Home followed in August by Hobbs & Shaw, a spinoff of the blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise that has the draw of mega-star Dwayne Johnson. Other major upcoming releases have relatively minor budgets compared to Dark Phoenix. Joker, for example, has a reported budget of $55 million, which is a far cry from the massive price tag that came with Dark Phoenix's late third-act reshoots.
Even if you consider the narrative that sequels aren't earning as much as they used to, Dark Phoenix is an outlier. It's had the fastest box-office drop of any superhero film, falling 83.2 percent from week one to week two. It's unlikely any other film coming out this year could outright lose $100 million. There's still a chance something like Terminator: Dark Fate could be a surprising dud. But as the overall view of 2019's box office begins to take shape, it's unlikely any film will lose as much money this year as Dark Phoenix.
Directed and written by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Holt, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain.