Ant-Man to the Rescue: Marvel’s February Box Office Strong

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” could represent half of the February box office.

February is poised to maintain a healthy box office pace with the upcoming release of the first Marvel title in over three months. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Disney) opens Feb. 16, and its initial performance could account for nearly half of its monthly gross.

January’s US/Canadian box office was up just under 50 percent from 2022. This is impressive. If we can maintain this trajectory, the 2023 box office total would be $11 million — less than half a million less than the pre-pandemic total of 2019 (when ticket prices were at least 20 percent lower). With 2023 projections closer to $9 million, this initial increase suggests that this goal will be achieved.

This positive is also reduced by the fact that the January gross was two-thirds of the last January of 2020, before Covid. In terms of actual ticket sales compared to current ticket prices, this January 2023 gross drops to 55 percent of 2020.

January was dominated by two Christmas releases, “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (Universal), which together accounted for more than half of the $580 million total. Throw in “M3GAN” (Universal), the biggest new release of the month, and that makes up nearly two-thirds.

This is a normal result for January. In most years, holiday holdovers (“1917,” “American Sniper,” “Revenant”) rake in an even larger portion of the revenue. There were only two standout films this year, with “The Man from Otto” (Sony) being the only decent addition.

With the third “Ant-Man” installment, there’s a chance the month will top February’s $530 million to $550 million expectations for a shorter month. Early tracking projections suggest $120 million for its opening weekend. If so, $240 million is possible by February 28.

The month is hampered by the Super Bowl, which falls on Valentine’s Day weekend, although the box office is countered by the female-oriented “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” (Warner Bros. Discovery) and the re-release of “Titanic” (Paramount). With “Quantumania” next week being Presidents’ Day, it will hold back competing titles from debuting on what is usually a strong release weekend.

Another hopeful note: This looks to be the last month of discounted titles for a while. If the 50 percent improvement over 2022 continues this month, even with a smaller release calendar, it bodes well for the rest of the year.

Magic Mike's Last Dance

“Magic Mike’s Last Dance”

Warner Bros.

Five of the big six distributors (excluding Sony) had new wide releases this month: “Knock at the Cabin” (Universal), “80 for Brady” (Paramount) this week, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” (Warner Bros. Discovery) ) and the “Titanic” reissue (Paramount), followed by “Quantumania,” “Cocaine Bear” (Universal), “Jesus Revolution” (Lionsgate) and “Mummies” (WBD) the following week at the end of the month. In total, they should bring in about $140 million in revenue for the month.

With “The Way of Water” and “Puss in Boots” still in the lead (they remained the No. 1 and No. 2 films last weekend), we can add another $140 million from pre-February releases. Other releases could gross another $30-40 million during the month.

Beyond these two, the Oscar-nominated titles do not attract much interest. In 2020, the best picture and acting titles received more than $90 million. Still, the trajectory is moving in the right direction, and we’re back to normal in at least one way: a Marvel movie makes the difference between good and very good results.

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