‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ has fourth-lowest opening in DCEU franchise history

Jason Momoa stars as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, in Warner Bros.’ “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”
Warner Bros. Discovery

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” dog-paddled to a $28.1 million domestic opening, the fourth-lowest in the history of the DC Extended Universe.

The film was expected to open between $32 million and $42 million. As it stands, the $28 million estimate from Warner Bros. Discovery is less than half of the $67.8 million the first “Aquaman” movie brought in during its 2018 debut weekend.

The film, likely Jason Momoa’s last turn at the titular aquatic hero, is expected to secure around $40 million in ticket sales over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend.

The weekend performance of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is on par with Warner Bros.’ DC franchise in recent years. Only one film from the franchise has debuted with more than $60 million in ticket sales since 2018 — “Black Adam” took in $67 million in early 2022, according to data from Comscore.

DC Extended Universe film openings
  • “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020) — $16.7 million
  • “Blue Beetle” (2023) — $25 million
  • “The Suicide Squad” (2021) — $26.2 million
  • “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (2023) — $28.1 million
  • “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (2023) — $30.1 million
  • “Birds of Prey” (2020) — $33 million
  • “Shazam!” (2019) — $53.5 million
  • “The Flash” (2023) — $55 million
  • “Black Adam” (2022) — $67 million
  • “Aquaman” (2018) — $67.8 million
  • “Justice League” (2017) — $93.8 million
  • “Wonder Woman” (2017) — $103.2 million
  • “Man of Steel” (2013) — $116.6 million
  • “Suicide Squad” (2016) — $133.6 million
  • “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) — $166 million

Source: Comscore

The $28 million estimated opening haul is smaller than the $30.1 million “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” tallied earlier this year. Notably, the second “Shazam!” film only managed to collect $57.6 million domestically and $133 million globally during its run in theaters.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” added $80.1 million from international ticket sales Friday through Sunday, bringing its total expected global take to $120 million (including the domestic Christmas expectations for Monday).

The first “Aquaman” also benefited from international ticket sales back in 2018. More than 70% of its $1.15 billion box office came from markets outside the U.S. and Canada, according to Comscore data.

Notably, “Aquaman” is the highest-grossing film in the DC Extended Universe franchise and no DCEU film has generated more than $400 million at the global box office since that film was released.

The franchise has suffered from lackluster quality, as critics have balked at CGI-heavy action sequences and disjointed attempts at bringing heroes together for team-ups. Pandemic-era restrictions also led to smaller box office openings in 2020 and 2021.

Even as those restrictions have lifted and audiences have returned to theaters, the DCEU has struggled to lure back even its most ardent fans. This was exacerbated earlier this year when Warner Bros. Discovery announced that the entire franchise would be rebooted in 2025 by the newly minted heads of DC Studios, James Gunn and Peter Safran.

The planned reboot dismayed fans, who believe that “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “Blue Beetle,” “The Flash” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” — all released after the announcement — would have no connection to future DC projects and were not must-see theatrical experiences.

One bright spot for the “Aquaman” sequel is that it faces limited competition in theaters next week and could benefit from the upcoming holidays, as school vacations have parents seeking out-of-home entertainment.

“While so-called superhero fatigue may be in play for many films of the genre in 2023, resulting in lower-than-expected opening weekend results, films that open in late December such as ‘Aquaman 2’ often play the long game and draw their audiences throughout the holiday and into the new year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.