The Unofficial ‘Black Adam’ Box Office Preview

 

Warner Bros. Discovery has begun the final lap of marketing and promotion for Dwayne Johnson’s DC Films flick Black Adam. We’ve got tickets on sale for the (reportedly) 124-minute action fantasy, with a new ensemble interview video from Fandango and an IMAX poster. In terms of predictions, projections and the like, what are the factors at play for what will be the first four-quadrant tentpole since Thor: Love and Thunder in early July?
If the film was budgeted like a big-deal New Line release ($90-$120 million) or a standard Dwayne Johnson vehicle (also $90-$120 million), then even a performance on par with Shazam! ($139 million domestic and $366 million worldwide on a $90 million budget) will be just fine. However, it if it’s budgeted closer to a conventional Warner Bros. tentpole ($150-$190 million) or Dwayne Johnson’s inexplicably expensive Jungle Cruise ($200 million), that’s a different conversation.

The hook of Black Adam is The Rock as a DC superhero or (depending on to what extent he ‘breaks good’ by the end) anti-hero. This is the most significant case of ‘the actor is more famous or important than the DC/Marvel character’ since Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider in 2007, if not Wesley Snipes’ Blade in 1998. While there’s a case to be made that Dwayne Johnson and the DC Films brand will supply double the fun. However, I’d argue that the respective fandoms for Dwayne Johnson action fantasy flicks and DC Films superhero movies involve overlapping demographics.
That’s also why doing a Jurassic World/Fast & Furious team-up is a bad idea, but I digress.
If it plays like a straight-up Dwayne Johnson vehicle, we are looking at an opening weekend between $35 million and $60 million. Jungle Cruise, Rampage, Central Intelligence and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle opened with over/under $35 million. Yes, Jungle Cruise probably would have opened higher in non-Covid circumstances. Yes, Jumanji 2 opened with $9 million on Wednesday (counting previews) and $7.5 million on Thursday, pulled a $36 million Fri-Sun and then didn’t drop below $12 million daily for the next two weeks over the holiday break.
Skyscraper earned mixed reviews and opened with just $25 million, but that original Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno flick had nothing except Johnson cosplaying his favorite action movies. If there are other added value factors at play, being a sequel to the well-liked Welcome to the Jungle, a Fast & Furious spin-off flick or an old-school disaster flick, those opened with $55-$60 million. Yes, I would argue that ‘it’s a DC Films flick’ counts as added value. It’s also a backdoor pilot for the Justice Society featuring Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone and Aldis Hodge as Hawkman.

Those names/characters won’t sell tickets on their own (it’s not like Centineo’s NetflixNFLX -1.8% fanbase showed up for Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels), but they supply value in terms of offering more than just ‘watch The Rock be a DC superhero.’ Unless reviews and buzz are poisonous, I’d expect a debut closer to Jumanji 3 than Jumanji 2. Black Adam will also be the first four-quadrant mega-movie since the early July release of Thor: Love and Thunder. Even if the trailers have been merely ‘okay, whatever,’ audiences are hungry for anything approaching a franchise-friendly tentpole title. Even DC Super Pets has legged past $90 million from a $23 million debut.
As much as the perpetually online talk about superhero fatigue (mostly due to the regular Disney+ television shows that much be watched and blogged about week in and week out), audiences are still showing up. The Batman earned $370 million domestic and $770 million worldwide. Thor: Love and Thunder legged out to $343 million/$750 million without China or Russia. Even Morbius, which had nothing to offer aside from kinda-sorta being a Marvel movie, still opened with $39 million. I’ll assume Jaume Collet-Serra’s Black Adam is better than Morbius.

At the risk of hitting ‘publish’ and immediately discovering that Black Adam cost $190 million and is tracking at $30 million, I’m not concerned. Johnson knows how to sell himself. If the movie delivers at least on the scale of San Andreas (let alone the Jumanji sequels, Rampage or the likes of Shazam or Aquaman), then it should at least open to San Andreas/Shazam ($55 million) levels. Think maybe over/under $70 million if everything goes right. Johnson vehicles tend to be leggy, so it should stick around until Black Panther: Wakanda Forever detonates like an extinction-level event on November 11.
Shazam legs from a $70 million launch gets it to $170 million (on par with Hobbs & Shaw), while Rampage legs ($101 million/$37 million) from a $55 million debut gets it to $155 million (tied with San Andreas). If it opens like Jungle Cruise ($35 million) and legs out like Hercules ($73 million from a $30 million debut), that’s a problem. If it cost closer to Shazam than The Batman, great. If not, all parties better hope for at least Shazam-level box office in North America and at least Rampage-level earnings (which included $153 million in China) or Hobbs and Shaw-level grosses ($380 million minus China) overseas. We’ll know soon enough.