Morbius’ $39.1 million domestic and 84 million global premiere, despite bad reviews (16 percent and 3.8/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and poor audience reaction (a C+ from Cinemascore), may be less “a franchise born” than “a bullet avoided.” According to conventional thinking, the picture will perform similarly to Fantastic Four ($56 million from a $26 million opening), Dark Phoenix ($66 million/$33 million), and Batman v Superman ($330/$166 million), with a domestic gross of over/under $85 million.
Maybe I’m mistaken. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 from Paramount skews kids, while Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore from Warner Bros. is “for fans only.” Morbius, starring Jared Leto, has the benefit of being a user-friendly, 105-minute all-quadrants franchise/superhero film with no study necessary. The best-case scenario is that it becomes a second choice/consensus decision over the following month, with a multiplier similar to Suicide Squad ($325 million/$133 million after a 67 percent decline on the second weekend). Morbius is still valued at roughly $98 million in the United States.
It’s another example of a film that has performed better under post-Covid circumstances than it would have otherwise. Whether or not delaying Morbius from January 29 to April 1 hurt the picture in terms of distance from Spider-Man: No Way Home, it aided Sony’s Uncharted with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Even yet, Morbius profited from the positive press surrounding Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man 3 version 2.0. Before both of those well-liked crowd-pleasers, Morbius was set to debut in July of 2020.
Morbius did, in fact, open 53% better than Fantastic Four. Furthermore, following the relatively pleasant Venom 2 and the $1.88 billion-grossing Spider-Man: No Way Home, the fact that Morbius turned out to be roughly as horrible as we all expected is less of a sting. Of course, Aaron Johnson’s Kraven The Hunter is now under pressure to prove that Venom wasn’t a fluke. Morbius would have launched with half of what Venom did in October 2018 for the same reasons it would have done in a non-Covid reality.
Morbius, Venom, and Jared Leto, Tom Hardy, in terms of commercial appeal and likeability. On a $90 million budget, Venom grossed $213.5 million domestically and $587 million internationally, excluding China ($269 million). Morbius would conclude with a $235-$250 million worldwide total if it had a comparable share on a $85-$90 million domestic total. The “positive” news is that Morbius was made for only $75 million. While the picture has a less expensive feel to it than, say, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it is another example of Tom Rothman’s “blockbusters on a budget.”
These recent $75-$120 million tentpoles (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Uncharted, Venom, and others) don’t need to smash box office records (or make a lot of money in China) to break even. This isn’t to say that viewers are clamoring for a sequel to Morbius. The “Tomb Raider Trap,” as I like to call it, proves that even a stronger sequel will atone for the crimes of this one. It does, however, imply that Sony may be secure in the fact that there will be a market for these “Spider-Man villain origin narrative” films.