Morbius Bombs AGAIN. So What Happened?
For reasons passing understanding, Morbius just returned to theaters this past weekend…and Sony paid the price. Yes, Morbius somehow just bombed even worse than the first time. What just happened? Well, it’s kind of a funny story…
Morbius Round One
During the first weekend of April, the latest entry into Sony’s Spider-Man Universe debuted in theaters. It performed…okay…Honestly, that’s me being polite. Morbius cost at least $80 million to produce but managed only $39 million for the weekend.
Morbius grossed a paltry $73.3 million during its entire North American run, which sounds okay for an $80 million movie, but it’s not. Films cost tens of millions of dollars to market. So, studios rely on international markets to enhance their revenue.
In the case of Morbius, the international box office amounts to just under $90 million. Overall, the Sony release earned a wildly disappointing $159.9 million before leaving the box office.
I’ve said before that all tentpole movies need to earn at least 3.5x their production budget to turn a profit. For Morbius, the magic number is between $280-$320 million. Yes, its overall box office run was barely half that, and we all know the reason why.
Sony is throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks in the Spider-Verse. That’s been evident for a while now. I mean, Sony cannot even settle on a name for its version of the MCU. You may recall that horrific first name of Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters.
Everyone started calling it SPUM or SPUMC, neither of which painted a rosy picture about the products involved.
Since then, Sony has given greenlights to Madame Web and El Muerto, neither of whom are characters that the overwhelming majority of people know.
That’s Sony’s business model. They’ll try anything if they can connect it back to Spider-Man. And that’s what has caused further humiliation here.
Déjà vu All Over Again
Morbius debuted on digital release on May 19th. Since that date, consumers have had the option to buy the film on services like Apple iTunes and Vudu. That’s an essential point here, as Sony should have possessed any number of private metrics indicating the popularity of Morbius…or the lack thereof.
For example, you can access Vudu right and look at a section called Top 200 Movies. It’s the service’s equivalent of Trending on Disney+. There’s an old-school way of checking the same data, only with more accurate results.
When you choose to search for any title, that screen displays the current top 12 projects overall on Vudu. Morbius displays on the Top 200 Movies, but it’s not on the search list’s top 12. Other recent releases like Ambulance and The Northman do appear.
Also, the Jurassic World franchise lists twice due to the impending arrival of the new movie. Similarly, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has gained renewed attention in the wake of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial.
SPUMC, or whatever you want to call it, does well here, too. Spider-Man: No Way Home displays in the top 12…unlike Morbius. So, yeah, the signs are right there that Morbius lacks the popularity of The Northman or Ambulance, both of which are box office bombs in their own right.
Somehow, Sony executives still fell for a sucker play, though. Several weeks ago, Morbius memes started appearing on social media.
People started saying, “It’s Morbin’! Time” so often that I debated mentioning it MarvelBlog News.
One Twitch streamer, Morbius247, started showing the movie on a loop on his channel, which is a shameless violation of all copyright laws.
The Curse of WallStreetBets
Why didn’t Sony or Twitch take down the channel immediately? I can only speculate here that Sony didn’t mind the idea of obsessive fans hyping Morbius. After all, the film’s initial release suffered near-total failure as a box office failure and critical dud.
Morbius is currently 17 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with an atrocious IMDb grade of 5.2. If some meme generators wanted to get the movie trending, Sony executives anticipated no downside in that. Oops.
We live in a meme society now wherein a junk stock like GameStop can go from $3 to $325 for no good reason. The business sector has developed a blind spot for detecting what’s a joke vs. what’s real.
In the case of Morbius, Sony didn’t step on the neck of the joke quickly enough. That ultimately caused them to buy into the myth, and it just bit them. Hard. Sony somehow talked itself into re-releasing Morbius into theaters this weekend, which is kind of like the Jets re-signing Mark Sanchez after the Butt Fumble.
Even the JETS knew better than that, but Sony got lost in the hype. Once the studio saw It’s Morbin’ Time trending for a week, it spent a fortune on its ill-fated new plan.
Failure by the Numbers
Sony persuaded 1,037 theaters to bring back Morbius instead of exhibiting a film consumers might want to watch. They were good and truly punished for their vast miscalculation, as Morbius earned an estimated $300,000 this weekend…and let’s be clear. That’s a HIGH estimate.
Sony is pot-committed to the number now and will somehow find the money because that’s how the box office industry works. Still, Morbius earned a pathetic $86,000 on Friday. Its (generous) three-day estimate of $300,000 reflects a per-venue average of $289.
Firestarter, an absolute debacle of a project that’s also available for free on Peacock, earned $292 per venue. Given what has transpired, Sony has ticked off a lot of angry exhibitors, who will be expecting make-goods on future projects.
Now, Sony will have no problem doing that, but it should never have happened in the first place. The company should have left well enough alone with Morbius.
After all, some criminally insane DC Comics fans just hacked a Twitter vote to make Justice League sound like it won two Academy Awards.
Do you know what Warner Bros. didn’t do? It didn’t re-release Justice League in theaters. Questionable data is easy to identify. I’m genuinely terrified to know that Sony couldn’t tell that this was a few zealots skewing data.
Their behavior calls into question whether they know what they’re doing with literally any comic book idea that won’t involve Tom Holland directly. I’ve had a good feeling about Kraven the Hunter for a while and consider any bet on Bad Bunny smart.
But Sony just got played for a sucker at the box office this past weekend. They’re going to hear about this particular humiliation for a while…and rightfully so.