Ezra Miller’s ‘The Flash’ and Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Encounter Box Office Headwinds

Both DC’s highly anticipated superhero pic The Flash and Pixar’s Elemental have their work cut out for them before opening in North American theaters on June 16, according to early tracking.

The Flash, starring Ezra Miller in the titular role, is pacing to open in the $70 million range, according to sources who have access to tracking data. Box office insiders say that’s a soft number for a movie that’s been heavily promoted by Warner Brothers Discovery as the best superhero film of all time. Others note that a movie’s hold once it opens is more important than the opening weekend gross.

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In late April, The Flash was the toast of CinemaCon. “It’s the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen,” WBD CEO David Zaslav told theater owners before they were shown the film in full.

The pic opens after a tumultuous 2022 for Miller, who was arrested multiple times and was the subject of controversies, culminating in the actor issuing a statement in August of last year apologizing for their behavior and saying they would receive help for “complex mental health issues.”

Miller stars in dual roles as alternate timeline versions of heroic speedster Barry Allen, with Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck making splashy returns of their respective Batman roles (in Keaton’s case, it’s a return to a character he hasn’t played since 1991). Sasha Calle stars as Supergirl, while Michael Shannon reprises his role of General Zod from the 2013 feature Man of Steel.

After the tepid showing of Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Black Adam, Warner’s DC movies could use a box office hit. At the same time, The Flash is one of the final films left over from the previous regime. The studio is now run by James Gunn and Peter Safran, who intend to relaunch the label with Gunn’s Superman: Legacy.

Warner Bros. has three weeks left to make its final marketing push for The Flash, meaning there’s plenty of upside in terms of generating interest and awareness, according to insiders.

Ditto for Pixar and Disney. Elemental is tracking to even softer numbers, or $40 million domestically, according to sources.

The studio only kicked off the film’s marketing campaign in earnest in recent days, including an integration with American Idol. Elemental makes its world premiere this weekend at the Cannes Film Festival.

If tracking stays as is, Elemental will join The Good Dinosaur and Onward in being one of the few Pixar movies to open to less than $50 million (the two later films both opened to $39 million domestically). And there were plenty of negative headlines when Ratatouille opened to $47 million before transforming into a box office sensation.

Pixar, like DC, could use a box office win. During the pandemic, some Pixar movies were sent sent straight to Disney+, so the storied animation has only released one title in theaters — Lightyear — since Onward, excluding re-releases. Onward opened on March 6, 2020, days before the COVID-19 crisis resulted in unprecedented theater closures. Lightyear was a disappointment, topping out at $226.4 million globally in summer 2022.

Disney previewed 20 minutes of Elemental at CinemaCon. Directed by Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur), the film is set in Element City, where fire, water, land and air residents live together. Its themes include connection, celebrating differences and finding one’s place in the world.

The story follows Ember (Leah Lewis), a tough, quick-witted and fiery young woman whose friendship with a sappy, go-with-the-flow guy named Wade (Mamoudou Athiec) challenges her beliefs about the world they live in, where “elements don’t mix.”

May 25, 5:20 p.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Pixar has not released any movies in theaters since Onward.

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