Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania kicks off Phase 5of the MCU with a $106 million opening weekend at the domestic box office. The first film released from each MCU Phase isn’t usually the Phase’s biggest hit, but since Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania introduces the MCU’s next big bad, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), and with big hitting sequels like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Captain America: New World Order, and The Marvels on the horizon, what does Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania‘s box opening weekend help us predict about the rest of Phase 5’s box office?
Phase 1 of the MCU had some hits and misses at the box office, but nobody could have predicted how much the MCU box office would take off after The Avengers, with each phase growing more and more, culminating in Avengers: Endgame briefly taking the #1 box office spot of all time (before an Avatar re-release bumped it back on top). After Avengers: Endgame, Phase 4 lost momentum at the box office, despite the massive success of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania marks the official beginning of Phase 5, what can we expect from the box office of the remaining Phase 5 movies?
Ant-Man’s Box Office Predicts Continued MCU Box Office Growth
The average non-Avengers MCU movie earned an average of $118.5 million in their opening weekends. Broken down by phases (again, excluding Avengers movies), Phase 1 averaged $82.6 million, Phase 2 averaged $101.3 million, Phase 3 averaged $130.5 million, and Phase 4 (ironically the only Phase without an Avengers movie) has the highest average opening weekend at $142.9 million. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a big drop from the Phase 3 and Phase 4 average, but still opened higher than Phase 4 movies (Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals.
A more fair comparison point for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania would be the other Ant-Man movies, both of which it outperformed. While Quantumania earned less than the average Phase 3 and Phase 4 movie in its opening weekend, it out-earned the first Ant-Man‘s $57.2 million opening weekend box office by $48.9 million and out-earned Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s $75.8 million opening weekend by $30.3 million. Granted, both of the previous Ant-Man movies have some of the lowest opening weekends at the box office, but it’s still important context when evaluating Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania‘s opening weekend performance.
Another factor to consider is the fact that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania isn’t a simple Ant-Man sequel as far as the larger MCU is concerned. While its plot is very contained to the existing Ant-Man story and character arcs, it serves a more significant function by introducing Kang the Conquerer and his backstory, serving as a launchpad for the rest of Phase 5 (leading up to Avengers: The Kang Dynasty), so box office expectations should reasonably expect a bigger bump from the previous Ant-Man box office numbers. Granted, Kang is also a new character, so he’s not going to provide the kind of boost existing MCU characters would have.
The MCU Box Office Is Trending Down
As stated above, the average opening weekend for non-Avengers movies increased sequentially from Phase 1 to Phase 4, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of the MCU’s box office trend. While opening weekends have been going up, average worldwide gross per movie has actually gone down since Avengers: Endgame. Even excluding Avengers movies (since Phase 4 doesn’t have any Avengers movies or similar team-ups), Phase 4 earned less per movie than Phase 3. If Avengers movies are included, then Phase 4’s average box office was even less than Phase 2.
It’s important to note that the first three movies in Phase 4 – Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals were all released during the COVID-19 pandemic and many theaters were closed and audiences weren’t all in a rush to pack into the ones that were open. So, while there is a clear drop in Phase 4’s box office, it’s not entirely clear how much of that is a result of the pandemic and how much is an actual loss of momentum, especially since the box office drop is accompanied by a drop in critic sentiment, with Eternals earning the franchise’s first Rotten score in Rotten Tomatoes.
Quantumania’s Box Office Is A Good Sign For Phase 5, But It Should Have Been Better
It’s hard to position Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania‘s $106 million opening weekend as a bad thing for Phase 5 when it’s a marked improvement over the prior Ant-Man movies and the rest of Phase 5 is loaded with sequels to movies that performed far better than Ant-Man or Ant-Man and the Wasp at the box office. Phase 4 may have lost some of the momentum of Phase 3, but that’s also a natural consequence of the universe quasi-resetting in Avengers: Endgame. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania‘s growth over Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp is a sign that the rest of Phase 5 could continue to grow that momentum back up again.
Recovery from the pandemic box office is another clear factor at play. While Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals all took a clear hit, the MCU came back swinging (literally) with Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s $1.9 billion box office gross making it the MCU’s third highest-grossing movie (the top non-Avengers movie) and the seventh highest-grossing movie of all time globally. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and, The Marvels on deck for 2023 with Captain America: New World Order following in 2024, there’s enough big hitters for Phase 5 to surpass the Phase 4 box office average.
After Avengers: Endgame, the MCU lost its overarching plot and big bad villain with Thanos, so skepticism over the franchise’s future is understandable, but as Marvel Studios slowly puts the new puzzle pieces in place, such as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania‘s introduction of Kang the Conqueror, the franchise is beginning to build that momentum once again. By the time Phase 6 arrives with two more Avengers movies, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars the franchise could be right back to the level of box office momentum it had going into Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.