2022 Broke The MCU’s $1 Billion Streak… So What About 2023?

2022 MCU Box Office Movies Thor Doctor Strange

While still successful, 2022 was a disappointing year for the MCU in that no movie broke $1 billion. Will 2023 be a return to box office form?

2022 saw an interesting turn for the Marvel Cinematic Universe box office in that no film broke the $1 billion barrier, begging the question of if 2023 can rectify this. 2022 saw the release of three MCU movies to end Phase 4. The films in question were Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

While each film received plenty of positive reviews – with Thor: Love and Thunder being the most divisive of the MCU offerings, and Black Panther 2 being the best-reviewed MCU film of the year – the box office returns were less than expected. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness earned a worldwide total of $955 million, falling just short of the milestone. The other two releases, Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earned $760 million and $827 million respectively, putting all three superhero movies in 2022’s box office top 10, despite the disappointments.


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2022 Was The First Year No MCU Movie Made $1 Billion Since 2017

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With none of these movies hitting the $1 billion mark, 2022 became the first year since 2017 that released MCU movies have failed this Herculean box office task. In 2018, Marvel Studios released two $1 billion movies. These were Black Panther in February 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War in May 2018. 2019 then saw the MCU miraculously improve this impressive feat, by releasing three $1 billion movies, albeit with one technically belonging to Sony. These were Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. 2020 saw no $1 billion film, but this was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lack of MCU movies released in this year.

2021, however, saw a return to form with the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home. While again owned by Sony, Spider-Man: No Way Home’s box office performance saw it become the first $1 billion movie post-pandemic, ending up just shy of $2 billion with a worldwide total haul of $1.9 billion. This leads into 2022, with the disappointment of no MCU movies hitting $1 billion becoming evident. This makes 2022 the first year that Marvel Studios has released movies and yet not had a $1 billion movie after 2017 – made worse by both 2015 and 2016 having MCU films that also hit the milestone.

Why No 2022 MCU Movie Made $1 Billion At The Box Office

2022 box office top gun black panther rise of gru shang chi free guy jungle cruise no way home 2021

The burning question naturally is why no MCU movies hit the coveted $1 billion milestone. With Doctor Strange 2 leading directly off the events of the extremely successful Spider-Man: No Way Home and the sequel to a $1.3 billion film in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever coming in 2022, many would argue it was expected for these examples to cruise past the $1 billion landmark at the box office. The plot of Thor: Love and Thunder was also highly anticipated, and was expected to improve on its predecessor’s $853 million worldwide haul.

In terms of the latter, the easiest explanation for its lackluster box office returns is the reaction from both audiences and critics. Thor: Love and Thunder currently holds a 64% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, the second-lowest of the entire MCU ahead of only Eternals. On top of this, fan discourse often regards Thor: Love and Thunder as a disappointment overall, failing to capture the magic of Thor: Ragnarok. This saw a significant drop in its box office after only its third weekend, contributing to its failure of hitting $1 billion.

Related: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness MCU Box Office Comparison

Concerning the other two releases that were largely expected to earn $1 billion, one of the contributing factors to why they did not is the growing sense of MCU superhero fatigue often wrongly blamed on Disney+. Superhero fatigue is a phrase that has been attributed to the MCU for a while, with only the continued critical and commercial success proving this wrong. Yet 2022’s box office may just begin to show that audiences are losing prolonged interest in the MCU. While all movies received impressive opening weekends largely brought in by die-hard fans, this didn’t equate to continued success at the box office, which exemplified superhero fatigue in 2022.

Other outside factors could link to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’s fan expectations, for example. Many regarded the film as failing to explore the possibilities of its title and premise, especially given the sheer fan-service enjoyment of Spider-Man: No Way Home and its similar concepts. The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie also had its fair share of discourse over the loss of Chadwick Boseman in the titular role. The fanbase was divided on what approach was the right way forward for the franchise, and what would best respect the actor’s legacy, which could have also contributed to the film not reaching $1 billion.

Will Any Of The MCU’s 2023 Movies Break The $1 Billion Barrier?

Kang the Conqueror and Adam Warlock in MCU

In light of all this, the question remains of whether 2023 can see a return to form for the MCU in terms of having a $1 billion movie. Arguably the biggest chance for this comes with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which will end this iteration of the beloved superhero team. Due to this, and the expected emotional depth of the film hinted at in the first trailer, Guardians 3 could hit $1 billion after its predecessors earned $773 million and $863 million respectively.

Though The Marvels is a sequel to the $1 billion-grossing Captain Marvel, the latter had strong links to Avengers: Endgame to bolster it. While it would be great to see the franchise’s first Black female director make a $1 billion movie, it would be a tough ask without links to other important MCU films and the low viewership ratings of Ms. Marvel. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, however, has a potentially higher chance of success in this regard, given the introduction of the Multiverse Saga’s villain Kang the Conqueror. While both Ant-Man movies did not perform outstandingly well, the added Marvel Cinematic Universe importance of Quantumania could see it reach $1 billion at 2023’s box office.

More: The Biggest Movie Box Office Bombs Of 2022

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