Aquaman's early box office tracking isn't great, but Warner Bros. shouldn't be overly concerned yet. Arriving in theaters a year after Justice League underwhelmed critically and commercially, director James Wan's film is looking to launch a more successful era for the DC Extended Universe. The creative team clearly has passion for the material, evidenced by star Jason Momoa already pitching sequel ideas to studio executives. However, before any followups are green lit, the first movie needs to be a hit and there are some questions about Aquaman's viability.
Recently, long-range projections indicated it would post the lowest opening weekend in the DCEU, earning between $40-60 million domestically. That figure is well below Justice League's debut of $93.8 million, painting a rather dire-looking picture for Aquaman's prospects. It may seem like the film is toast, though it's still a bit too soon to write it off completely.
For starters, there are still seven weeks (as of this writing) until Aquaman opens. Box office estimates are not an exact science, and the numbers can fluctuate considerably over time. There are a few factors left to be determined, such as the performances of other December releases and Aquaman word-of-mouth. Reactions from test screenings pointed to something akin to a Marvel Phase 1 movie, but if the actual reviews are more glowing, then Aquaman will receive a nice boost. When the movie's release date gets closer, it'll be easier to predict how things will turn out.
If history's any indication, there will likely be a discrepancy between the first wave of estimates and the final tally. Venom was long projected to break October's opening weekend record, but analysts initially had it pegged for a far more modest $60 million haul. Sony's comic book adaptation grossed $80.2 million in its first three days. About a month before it opened last June, Wonder Woman was projected to make as little as $65 million and went on to earn $103 million instead. The same can be said for Doctor Strange, which exceeded its own commercial expectations by scoring $85 million. Of course, Justice League serves as a cautionary tale here. Once upon a time, DC's team-up was poised to make $150 million in its opening weekend, and came up well short of that. Mercifully, Aquaman hasn't been plagued by numerous production woes, but if it isn't well-received, it may struggle to draw sizable crowds.
It's true Venom soared past $500 million worldwide despite the widely negative professional reviews, but these situations aren't the same. The Tom Hardy vehicle essentially had the first half of October to itself, ending a months-long tentpole drought and giving audiences an entertaining genre picture to see. Aquaman (probably) isn't that critic-proof. In the wake of Justice League, the DCEU's standing took a big hit, and December is loaded with numerous four-quadrant pictures hoping to make a splash. Aquaman opens one week after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, on the same day as Bumblebee, and right before Mary Poppins Returns (there's also a PG-13 Deadpool Christmas movie thrown in there for good measure). So, it's vital for Aquaman to be a quality film so it can stand out from the crowd. Hopefully, all goes well and WB gets their DC franchise back on track.