Box office preview: ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ attempts to keep the March sequel love going

The Oscars are over, but new movies in theaters go on with our third weekend in a row featuring a sequel that’s (sort of) part of a larger franchise. Read on for Gold Derby’s box office preview.

In 2019, Warner Bros. decided to make a movie based on the C.C. Beck and Bill Parker superhero, once known as “Captain Marvel,” who debuted in 1940, less than two years after Superman. Although the character hadn’t really been featured in much media, other than a ’70s Saturday morning live action show, DC (and former CCO Geoff Johns) had made a concentrated effort to make the character (redubbed “Shazam!”) more prominent in the comics, even as a big screen movie had been in development by New Line for well over a decade.

That movie opened in April 2019 with an impressive $53.5 million in 4,217 theaters, ultimately grossing $140 million in North America and another $223 million overseas. That might not seem like much compared to even the lesser Marvel movies, but it was quite a coup for filmmaker David F. Sandberg, who had been directing horror films before that, including the horror hit, “Lights Out.”

SEE March 2023 box office preview

This weekend, Warner Bros. releases the sequel to that movie, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” into over 4,000 theaters. Much has changed since the original “Shazam!” movie came out and not just the global pandemic, but lots of changes at DC Entertainment, including the hiring of James Gunn and Peter Safran to run the show. At one point, Dwayne Johnson‘s “Black Adam” was supposed to debut in the “Shazam!” movie, and maybe it’s a good thing he didn’t, although last year’s “Black Adam” movie opened with $69 million and  grossed $391.3 million worldwide, i.e. more than the first “Shazam!”

Either way, Zachary Levi is back as his popular hero, along with Jack Dylan Grazer (“It”) as Freddie Freeman, Djimon Hounsou as the wizard Shazam (from where his namesake got his power), and Adam Brody, Meagan Good and D.J. Cotrona as three of the orphans turned superhero. On the other side of things is the villainous Daughters of Atlas, played by Oscar winner Dame Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and the popular Rachel Zegler, who debuted in Steven Spielberg‘s “West Side Story” a few years back. That seems like a fairly stacked deck in terms of a cast, but this is still very much about Levi.

Reviews for “Fury of the Gods” won’t be released until Wednesday evening sometime, which could be seen as worrisome, like Warner Bros. is hiding the movie. Personally, I feel like the reactions to “Fury of the Gods” will generally be mixed to positive, with the usual trepidation that a sequel might receive. The original “Shazam!” received 90% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and 82% from audiences, so there has to be some general interest in the sequel.

SEE 2022 box office hits: Every movie that made more than $100 million

A bigger problem might be the growing ennui that seems to be hitting comic book and superhero movies in the past year. The fact that “Shazam!” may no longer be a part of Gunn and Safran’s grand design for DC might give some of those interested some pause, convincing some to wait until it hits HBO Max. All things considered, the “Shazam!” sequel should be good for somewhere between $45 and 50 million, which would be a lower opening than the original, but this one does have a lot more competition for moviegoer dollars.

Offered as counter-programming of sorts is Paul Weitz‘s “Moving On,” starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as two women who want to kill the widower of a late friend of theirs after attending her funeral. It’s a smaller indie dramedy that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and is being released by Roadside Attractions into roughly 800 theaters nationwide. Considering the relative success of Tomlin and Fonda’s recent appearance in Paramount’s “80 for Brady” – it opened in 3,912 theaters with $12.7 million for second place – and their Netflix show, “Grace and Frankie,” Tomlin and Fonda clearly have an audience that could indeed get some older adults back to theaters. Expect it to make somewhere between $1 and $2 million, which could be enough to get into the Top 10.

Furthermore, Focus Features is releasing Greek filmmaker Vasilis Katsoupis‘s thriller “Inside” into roughly 300 theaters on Friday, following its Berlinale debut in February. It stars four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe as Nemo, an art thief who gets trapped within a luxury penthouse apartment when the burglar alarm goes off. It’s another fantastic performance from Dafoe, but it seems like the movie may be a little too “arthouse” to interest mainstream audiences even with Dafoe literally being in every single scene. Look for it to make around $500k or less this weekend.

From China comes BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Zhang Yimou‘s “Full River Red,” which opened on the mainland in January of this year and has grossed $671 million in China alone. (That makes it the seventh-biggest movie in the country’s history.) It’s being released in North America by Niu Vision Media into 150+ theaters, and that will be a good test to see if word-of-mouth from its China release has gotten over to the abundant Chinese population living in North America. There’s a chance it might break into the top 10, but it’s more likely to wind up just outside with under a million.

Check back on Sunday to see how the movies above did.

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