Dark Phoenix, the final installment of Fox's long-running X-Men film series, opened over the weekend to dismal reviews and a disappointing box office in North America. Its performance in international markets was similarly soft, resulting in a significant financial loss for the studio.
Even without adjusting for inflation, Dark Phoenix has the worst domestic opening in the entire 19-year-old franchise, earning just $33 million. That's significantly lower than pre-release projections, which had the film on track for a North American debut of between $45 million and $55 million. Dark Phoenix's domestic box office total is just slightly above its $32.1 million Chinese debut, across a three-day holiday weekend. Dark Phoenix has earned $140 million worldwide on a reported production budget of $200 million, not including marketing and distribution. The film would have to earn about $400 million just to stand the chance of breaking even.
The second-lowest domestic opening weekend for the franchise is 2013 The Wolverine, which bowed with $53.1 million on its way to earn $414.8 million worldwide (on a reported production budget of $120 million). With only $132.6 million of The Wolverine's lifetime total earned domestically, 68 percent of its worldwide haul was earned overseas. The third-lowest earning film is the franchise-launching X-Men, which opened to $54.4 million in 2000. Without adjusting for inflation, the film is the second-lowest earning overall, making $296.3 million worldwide, the majority of which from North America, as foreign markets had not yet become serious business for Hollywood. However, adjusting for inflation, the original X-Men is actually the fifth-highest grossing film in the franchise, with its total increasing to $262.9 million from the unadjusted $157.2 million.
The next-lowest domestic opening for the franchise is, surprisingly, the critically acclaimed X-Men: First Class, which served as a soft reboot for the franchise. The prequel opened to $55.1 million domestically in 2011 on its way to earning $353.6 million worldwide on a reported production budget of $140 million. The next-lowest opening is Dark Phoenix's immediate predecessor X-Men: Apocalypse which debuted in 2016 to $65.7 million domestically, before finishing its global run with $543.9 million. That's considerably less than the three previous installments.
X2: X-Men United, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Logan have comparably close domestic opening weekends within the $85 million to $90 million range, which appears to be the franchise's domestic-opening average. X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened in 2009 to a solid $85 million domestically, while X2 debuted in 2003 to $85.5 million. Despite an R-rating and off-season opening in March, Logan opened in 2017 to $88.4 million, buoyed largely by widespread acclaim and positive word-of-mouth surrounding Hugh Jackman's final appearance as Wolverine. Finally, Days of Future Past opened in 2014 to $90.8 million domestically, similarly to critical acclaim and positive fan response to the cast of the original trilogy crossing over with their First Class counterparts. Days of Future Past remains the highest-earning main installment in the franchise, with a global total of $747.9 million.
The first X-Men film to open to north of $100 million is actually X-Men: The Last Stand, debuting Memorial Day weekend 2006 and overcoming tepid critical response. Even unadjusted for inflation, The Last Stand is the third-highest earning installment of the franchise domestically, with a total of $234.3 million while, after adjusting for inflation, the 2006 film is actually the second-highest earning entry in the franchise overall, with an adjusted domestic total of $322.3 million.
Despite years of being stuck in development hell, a February release for its first installment with an R-rating, and comparatively smaller budget, the two biggest openings for the Fox franchise actually are from Deadpool. The original Deadpool has the biggest domestic opening, highest earning domestic total both adjusted and unadjusted for inflation, and the biggest lifetime worldwide box office total for the entire franchise. The 2016 original opened to $132.4 million domestically on its way to a worldwide total of $783.1 million on a reported production budget of $58 million. Not to be completely outdone, Deadpool 2 has the second-biggest domestic opening at $125.5 million and second-highest worldwide box office total at $778.9 million.
While effectively catapulting the current era of modern superhero movies, the X-Men franchise has never quite been quite as successful as its counterparts based on DC comics or set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No single installment has reached $800 million at the worldwide box office and only three have cracked a domestic opening weekend of $100 million. With that in mind, Dark Phoenix still has the weakest opening in the history of the franchise, and is on track to become a bona fide box office loss for Fox, closing out the long-running series on a sour note. While the spinoff installment The New Mutants is slated to open in April 2020, Dark Phoenix has set a franchise-low bar for the upcoming film to cross to close out the franchise for good.
Directed and written by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain. The film is out in theaters now.