10 Box Office Bombs and Successes of 2023

By Kieran Burt
Published: December 22, 2023 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
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10 Box Office Bombs and Successes of 2023
The Super Mario Bros. Movie | Image via Nintendo and Universal Studios

2023 has been a tough year for Hollywood. Franchise staples such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Indiana Jones, and the DC Extended Universe saw historic collapses at the box office and the writers’ and actors’ strikes hit hard. It hasn’t all been bad, as there have been some unlikely successes this year, such as Barbie and Oppenheimer. Now the year is over, it’s time to look back on the biggest bombs and successes at the global box office in 2023.

While some of the success stories are obvious billion-dollar grossers and the losses obvious failures, many are relative to their cost and franchise. Many of this year’s flops would have rocked the box office had studios budgeted better, but because the budgets were often as high as the stars that studios were aiming for, the amount a film needed to make just to break even theatrically was insurmountable.

Successes

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

While Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse performed OK at the global box office with $382.4 million, it became a word-of-mouth sensation. This paid dividends when its sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse hit cinemas, as it almost doubled the global box office total of the first film and came out with $690 million. This becomes even more impressive when compared against a reported budget of around $100 million plus marketing. It’s safe to say Miles Morales will be swinging about cinemas for much longer yet, even after Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse.

Barbie

It’s impossible to talk about the box office successes of 2023 and not mention Barbie. While it carried a price tag of $145 million and a reported marketing budget of $150 million, it was money well spent. The marketing campaign took on a life of its own, with many pink products dominating social media feeds. But none of this could compare to the fan marketing, with many people creating memes about this film and Oppenheimer. The resulting “Barbenheimer” phenomenon pushed the film to an incredible $1.44 billion globally, an incredible and surprising feat.

Oppenheimer

This leads quite nicely to the next box office success, Barbie’s counterpart, Oppenheimer. There’s no denying that this film benefitted greatly from all of the memes pairing it with a children’s doll, pushing Christopher Nolan’s biopic to even greater heights than it might have hoped to reach on its own. A rather lean $100 million budget (plus marketing) meant that the film easily made its money back and more, eventually pulling in $953.8 million, just shy of $1 billion. It’s a remarkable feat, and one no one saw coming.

The Super Mario Bros Movie.

The other film that grossed over $1 billion at the global box office this year was The Super Mario Bros. Movie. And, despite Mario’s enduring popularity in video games, this was far from certain. A botched Mario film in 1993 scared Nintendo from the film industry for 20 years, but when they returned they pulled elements from all over the Mario franchise and partnered up with Universal to create a faithful animated feature. With a reported budget of $100 million plus marketing, The Super Mario Bros. Movie. pulled in $1.36 billion, and showed that video game movies could be great.

John Wick Chapter 4

While at first glance John Wick Chapter 4’s total global gross of $440.1 million is significantly lower than the other films on this list, and the budget of $100 million plus marketing means it made less money, John Wick Chapter 4 still deserves to be here. At a time when franchise fatigue is rampant, Chapter 4 managed to buck that by improving on the box office of its previous entry, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (a global total of $327.7 million) by over $100 million. It shows impressive longevity with audiences, something that Lionsgate will be hoping continues with the 2024 spin-off film Ballerina.

Bombs

The Marvels

Superhero films in general floundered at the box office this year and could have entirely filled the bomb section. Looking at The Marvels, it proved to be a rare MCU flop. The film’s total budget was $273.8 million, and, even though it got a grant of $55 million from the UK, the film still cost roughly Disney $223.8 million to make, adding marketing on top of it. The Marvels was heavily affected by the SAG-AFTRA strikes, with its stars like Brie Larson and Iman Vellani unable to promote the film until the very last minute and was released into an environment hostile to superhero films. When The Marvels was released, it was unsurprising that it performed poorly. The film ended its global run with just $205.5 million, making it the lowest-grossing entry in the MCU.

The Flash

The decline of superheroes at the box office didn’t just affect Marvel Studios and Disney. The four films that closed out the old DCEU all flopped, but The Flash was the most prolific failure. Its total global box office came in at $268 million, which might have been respectable if the film didn’t cost $300 million to make, along with a reported $150 million marketing push. The film, trumpeted as one of the best superhero movies ever by Warner Bros Discovery., ran headfirst into a brick wall with audiences, losing the studio about $200 million.

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1

After Tom Cruise’s massive success and box-office longevity of Top Gun: Maverick, all eyes were on his next film, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 to be the next film to cruise its way to over $1 billion at the global box office. Alas, this wasn’t meant to be. Despite pulling in a respectable total of $567.5 million, the film’s crippling budget of $291 million plus marketing prevented it from breaking even during the theatrical window. Maybe opening the week before Barbie and Oppenheimer wasn’t the brightest idea.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Despite the film being a critical success, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves failed to pull in an audience. The reported budget for the film was $150 million, plus a splashy marketing spend, meaning that even though the film managed to make $208.2 million, it still failed to break even. Paramount unfortunately rolled low dice with this film. Despite this, there are rumors that a follow-up will be made. Even the movie’s star Chris Pine thinks there will be another film, telling GamesRadar+ he’s “pretty confident” a sequel will happen.

The Creator

Originality in Hollywood is often touted as a dying notion, but Gareth Edwards at least attempted to change that with his film The Creator. A sci-fi epic very clearly inspired by Star Wars, this film received a muted response from audiences. It made $104 million globally. But as the film cost $80 million, along with its associated marketing cost, it will go down as a failure for studio Disney. It’s a real shame, as it teaches studios that only brand names and franchises will sell tickets.

There you have the biggest bombs and successes in the global box office in 2023. How do you think 2023 fared as a year for tentpole movies and the theatrical experience? Let us know in the comments. 


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