Both Critic and Audience-Proof? No One Loves ‘Ant-Man,’ but It Opens Huge Anyway

The critics, and audiences according to CinemaScore, have panned the latest Marvel installment hard. It didn't matter for the grosses.
(L-R): Kathryn Newton as Cassandra "Cassie" Lang and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Marvel Studios' ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo by Jay Maidment. © 2022 MARVEL.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania"
Jay Maidment

Marvel entries like “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Disney) are better tests for the strength of the franchise than the MCU’s top tentpoles. And based on multiple elements, the third film in the “Ant-Man” series passed with flying colors.

Its domestic three-day gross of $104 million (worldwide $225 million) came in the face of some actual challenges. The title character led two previous films, with the second one in 2018 opening to $76 million. The threequel did 37 percent better than last time. Ticket prices have increased substantially in five years, but that still means it slightly outpaced in attendance.

That came in the face of some headwinds. The critical consensus (Marvel films usually get good to better reviews) was outright negative (on Metacritic, a 48 score). Even more concerning, its Cinemascore was a B — only one Marvel film has rated that low before, “Eternals” (B is at best a mediocre reaction from the general audience, which usually grades on a curve).

Yet its Saturday drop from the combined Thursday preview and Friday grosses was 27 percent. That’s a lower drop than for the three 2022 Marvel releases, all among the top eight films of the year. The $104 million surpassed pre-opening projections by about $10 million.

Jonathan Majors in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania"
Jonathan Majors in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”Marvel

You have to figure the past appeal of the lead character, curiosity in the start of the new phase, and particularly the introduction of Kang the Conqueror (played by Jonathan Majors), fed interest. It doesn’t hurt that this is the first big-budget release since December, and the Presidents Day holiday boost all helped.

Early days don’t guarantee further strength, but even if a steeper fall follows, this opening reasserts the Marvel dominance. The one fly in the “Ant” ointment is that foreign (all territories sans Russia) only slightly outdid domestic. The Asian results, particularly China, fell below previous openings for this Marvel character.

The weekend saw Disney take the top two spots. “Avatar: The Way of Water” overtook last weekend’s #1 “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” (Warner Bros. Discovery) with a much better hold (down only 15 percent), even though the latter nearly doubled its theater count. All-time records for James Cameron’s latest continue to deny the reality that much higher ticket prices have distorted this accounting, but by any standards, $657 million domestic and nearly $2,250,000,000 total are outstanding.

As usual, the release of “Quantumania” forestalled much competition. Briarcliff took the opportunity to release “Marlowe” with Liam Neeson. This reworking of the classic Raymond Chandler character, with topflight director Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”) opened last Wednesday. Despite the recent success of Neeson in opening genre films, this managed less than $3 million in its first five days.

Adding to the weekend’s haul were holdovers that, with the exception of the “Titanic” reissue (Paramount), all dropped under 40 percent. Best among these was “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (Universal), #4, down only six percent. It has now surpassed “Sing 2,” which was not anticipated, with a remote chance to still reach $200 million domestic. All this while it has been available for home viewing since its third weekend.

Total grosses for all films this weekend reached about $142 million. That puts 2023 YTD 16 percent better than last year. That remains a nice improvement though not quite as much ahead as it has been in 2023 to this point. Last year saw “Uncharted” open strong on this date, with $126 million total (that really began 2022’s momentum).

This year is 38 percent ahead of three years ago (when early signs of theater avoidance with Covid on the rise were present). That boosts our ongoing four-week rolling comparison to 2020 to 86 percent, its best showing since Christmas.

"Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey"
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and HoneyFathom Events

Once again, an opportunistic midweek placement of a low-budget horror film showed real interest. “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” (Fathom), with near-record bad reviews (17 on Metacritic) over 5 days in only 445 theaters reached $1.5 million. That’s not much less than “Marlowe” which had nearly five times as many dates.

The weekend saw an unusually big number to limited releases from top specialized companies. Best of these was this year’s compilation of Oscar nominated shorts (Shorts TV). The results was $705,000 in 370 theaters. That’s a nice jump from last year (initially $434,000 in 355).

Focus launched the Australian drama “Of an Age” with $411,000 in 289 theaters. “Return to Seoul” (Sony Pictures Classics), with outstanding reviews, opened to $30,000 in two locations. “Emily” (Bleecker Street) came in with $40,000 in five. “Pacifiction” (Grasshopper), Cahier du Cinema’s #1 film for 2022 and an IndieWire favorite, took in $9,462 in New York (with only three shows a day). An ambitious reissue of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (Sony Pictures Classics) managed only $171,000 in 435 theaters.

The Top 10 

1. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 48; Est. budget: $200 million

$104,000,000 in 4,345 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $23,936; Cumulative: $104,000,000

2. Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) Week 10; Last weekend #2

$6,118,000 (-15%) in 2,675 (-390) theaters; PTA: $2,287; Cumulative: $657,076,000

3. Magic Mike’s Last Dance (WBD) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$5,525,000 (-33%) in 3,034 (+1,538) theaters; PTA: $1,821; Cumulative: $18,115,000

4. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) Week 9; Last weekend #5; also on PVOD

$5,260,000 (-6%) in 3,012 (-215) theaters; PTA: $1,746; Cumulative: $166,076,000

5. Knock at the Cabin (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$3,900,000 (-28%) in 2,601 (-1,056) theaters; PTA: $1,499; Cumulative: $30,372,000

6. 80 for Brady (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$3,600,000 (-38%) in 3,119 (-820) theaters; PTA: $1,154; Cumulative: $32,248,000

7. Titanic  (Paramount) REISSUE (week 2); Last weekend #3

$2,290,000 (-66%) in 2,132 (-332) theaters; PTA: $1,074; Cumulative: $(adjusted est.) 1,513,000,000

8. Marlowe (Briarcliff) NEW – Metacritic: 41

$1,910,000 in 2,281 theaters; PTA: $837; Cumulative: $2,670,000

9. Missing (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #8

$1,725,000 (-32%) in 1,516 (-799) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $

10. A Man Called Otto (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #7

$1,600,000 (-39%) in 1,725 (-1,099) theaters; PTA: $928; Cumulative: $60,222,000


Other Specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are tracked.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (Fathom) NEW – Metacritic: 17

$679,291 in theaters; PTA: $1,565; Cumulative: $1,519,000

Of an Age (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Melbourne 2022

$411,000 in 289 theaters; PTA: $1,422

2023 Oscar Shorts (Shorts TV) NEW

$7o5,000 in 370 theaters; PTA: $1,846

Return to Seoul (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 91; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2022

$30,785 in 2 theaters; PTA: $15,362; Cumulative: $40,336

Emily (Bleecker Street) NEW – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto 2022

$40,133 in 5 theaters; PTA: $8,028

Pacifiction (Grasshopper) NEW – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2022

$9,642 in 1 theaters; PTA: $9,642

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Reissue)

$171,586 in 475 theaters; PTA: $361; Cumulative: (adjusted) $275,000,000

Full Time (Music Box) Week 3

$5,727 in 4 (no change) theaters; Cumulative: $19,574

Infinity Pool (Neon) Week 4; also on PVOD

$41,912 in 50 (-365) theaters; Cumulative: $5,042,000

Close (A24) Week 4

$129,228 in 116 (+55) theaters; Cumulative: $616,288

Living (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$209,391 in 162 (-104) theaters; Cumulative: $2,371,000

The Whale (A24) Week 11

$134,499 in 363 (-321) theaters;  Cumulative: $16,590,000

EO (Janus/Sideshow) Week 14

$23,100 in 37 (-26) theaters; Cumulative: $997,086

The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight) Week 18; also on HBO Max and VOD

$33,000 in 265 (-55) theaters; Cumulative: $10,371,000

Aftersun (A24) Week 19; also on VOD

$13,371 in 15 (-5) theaters; Cumulative: $1,563,000

Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 48; also on PVOD

$150,793 in 390 (-246) theaters; Cumulative: $72,828,000

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