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Ant-Man 3's box office performance, explained

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania was meant to be the big start to MCU's Phase 5, but it might be fairer to call it a big stumble.

Its reviews were decidedly mixed and that's putting it politely. For every review (like ours) that said it's entertaining but flawed, there were several that called it overstuffed and underdeveloped, which is quite a combination.

At the time of writing, Quantumania has regained its unwanted position as the joint-worst reviewed MCU movie, tied at 47% on Rotten Tomatoes with Eternals. Following its release, it also set another record for the biggest week-on-week drop at the US box office for an MCU movie.

But has the Ant-Man threequel managed to rebound from that second weekend or has it become a rarity: a Marvel box office flop? Let's delve into the numbers to explain all.

kathryn newton, paul rudd, ant man and the wasp quantumania
Marvel Studios

We'll start with the cold hard facts. After four weeks in play, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania has grossed $447.4 million worldwide, with $198.1 million coming from the US and $249.3 million coming from international markets.

Despite a US debut of $106.1 million which set new record for the franchise, Quantumania has yet to overtake the final hauls of Ant-Man ($518.9 million) and Ant-Man and The Wasp ($623.1 million). Neither of those movies were big Marvel draws, which makes the threequel's current haul even more disappointing.

In terms of the overall MCU, Quantumania has surpassed the final box office totals of Black Widow, Shang-Chi and Eternals. However, each of those movies was released during 2021 when cinemas were still getting back to full business, and Black Widow even had a simultaneous digital release.

Quantumania has also overtaken The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger, but the MCU is a very different beast these days so those comparisons aren't accurate. If we compare it to other MCU threequels, the movie falls a long way short – its closest competitor is Thor: Ragnarok's $850.5 million.

And, sorry Ant-Man, but Quantumania is so far away from getting to Ragnarok's tally that it feels slim to even call it a competitor.

antman and the wasp quantumania
Disney

Sometimes, future releases can save a movie at the box office, but Quantumania is out in every major market. This past weekend, it added $7.1m in the US and nearly $10 million internationally, so even Ant-Man's $518.9 million could be a challenge to surpass.

That's despite the movie being the first MCU offering to get a day-and-date release in China since Black Widow. (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever also got a release in the market, but only on February 7, three months after its US release.)

China does lead the way internationally for Quantumania with $39 million, yet that's a minor total for the market. With Shazam! Fury of the Gods soon to be unleashed worldwide, including in China, prospects are bleak that the Ant-Man threequel can rebound from its current position.

So what went wrong for Marvel's Phase 5 opener?

jonathan majors, antman and the wasp quantumania
Jay Maidment - Marvel Studios

While the reviews won't have put off MCU completists, the middling response (if we're being polite) would potentially have put off more casual fans. When combined with the knowledge that Quantumania will pop up on Disney+ eventually, it's likely that many thought they'd just wait to see it.

The record-breaking US opening is deceiving too. Yes, it's a record for the Ant-Man trilogy, but pales in comparison to recent Marvel debuts, such as Thor: Love and Thunder ($144.2 million), Black Panther 2 ($181.3 million) and Doctor Strange 2 ($187.4 million).

Ant-Man has always been a minor draw in terms of the wider MCU, so it's possible that the bold call to make an Ant-Man movie the first of a new phase just never paid off. Marvel fans who like the Ant-Man movies might even have been put off by Quantumania going 'bigger', losing the ground-level, low-stakes charm of those first two movies.

That would certainly seem to be conveyed in the record 70% drop in the US, hinting at not just a lack of interest from new viewers, but also minimal repeat viewings from fans who saw it opening weekend.

An opening weekend B Cinemascore grade (low for Marvel) suggests the same: essentially, those who did go and see Quantumania just weren't that impressed with it. It might have an 83% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, but that barely gets it into the top 20 in terms of highest-rated MCU movies.

michelle pfieffer, michael douglas, antman and the wasp quantumania
Marvel Studios

Perhaps there was even a slight hint of Marvel fatigue that factored into Quantumania's disappointing box office haul.

We've had a lot of Marvel 'content' over the past year or so with the threequel arriving a little over three months after Wakanda Forever. It's a lot for even a die-hard MCU fan to keep up with and perhaps with the change of Phase, Marvel might have been better off having a larger gap.

That was potentially behind the thinking in shifting The Marvels from July to November 2023. We've got Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 in May, but then have a six-month gap to the next MCU movie that's more in-line with the release schedule of the earlier Phases.

When you're constantly giving fans what you think they want, you always run the risk of it being too much of a good thing. There's a lot to be said for building anticipation and unfortunately for Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, many fans just weren't anticipating it that much.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is out now in cinemas.

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