With the opening weekend box office numbers of Morbius, the film could probably not sell another ticket and be okay. In its first weekend of life on the big screen, the Jared Leto led film based on an obscure Marvel Comics character earned back its budget, plus $14 million. The film will still sell tickets though – how many is the question – and it is another datapoint in this endemic era. The question of whether or not Morbius is a hit or flop may not even be relevant, especially when it comes to Marvel movies in this endemic era. If Morbius breaks even, Sony Pictures will likely be unhappy, but they know things could be very, very worse. In fact, Morbius winning the weekend suggests that “superhero fatigue” is nowhere near us yet.
Whether or not Morbius is a hit or flop has little to do with whether it is a good movie, Marvel or otherwise. Past notorious flips like Ishtar and Gigli are, upon revisitation perfectly okay movies. In our reaction to the film, we noted that it feels like there is a decent movie in Morbius somewhere. It feels like a story that suffers from either not enough rewriting and editing or, perhaps, too much. The Morbius post-credits scenes are the worst kind of corporate shoehorning. A character from another thing shows up for no narrative reason and meets this character only because they must.
Yet, so long as Morbius doesn’t lose money for Sony Pictures, whether we call it a flop or a hit or the “Morbius Sweep” doesn’t matter. Marvel movies are still the best hope for the movie theater industry.
Why It Doesn’t Matter if Morbius Is a Hit or Flop
Image via Sony Pictures
There are two kinds of bad movies. There are the bad movies that are simply painful to watch, full of poor execution, uninspired storytelling, and weak performances. Then there are the bad movies that have all those elements but some X-factor that makes them hilarious. Your mileage may vary on where (or even “if”) Sony Pictures’ latest Marvel movie falls. Yet, even with Sonic 2 and Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore on its heels, this movie will probably turn a profit, especially when it comes time for licensing it to streaming. To be purely cynical, it doesn’t matter if Morbius is a flop or a hit in the eyes of theaters and the studio, so long as it put asses in seats.
Even before the pandemic, the movie industry entered a period of fundamental change. With the Streaming Wars in full force, the type of content people enjoy and where they enjoy it shifted. Take the recent erotic thriller Deep Water. Another perfectly fine movie, it would have died in the theaters. (Though, the idea of people getting all erotically stimulated in a group environment has always seemed strange in the age of the internet.) Yet, on Hulu this movie is not only able to find its audience, horny and thrilled in the comfort of their own homes, but possibly other audiences who are just looking for something “different” to watch. These low- to mid-budget movies may not enjoy long runs on thousands of theater screens. Yet, there is more opportunities than ever for these kind of films on these streamers.
With Morbius, Sony Pictures is learning to play the franchise long game. They will have their shared universe of Marvel properties, featuring characters who will eventually team up and/or clash.
Sony Pictures’ Marvel Character Universe – Quantity Vs Quality
One surprising thing about Marvel Studios’ run thus far has been the lack of any truly bad films. Even those deemed to be the “worst” MCU films – looking at you Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World – are not actually that ‘bad.’ The worst of their output are still carefully constructed, intentional films, that seamlessly fit into the larger narrative tapestry they wove. The Sony Pictures universe of Marvel characters is less well structured. Yet, with Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures in a tenuous partnership, they are learning from the Disney-owned studio how to better build a universe.
If Spider-Man: No Way Home taught Sony Pictures anything, it’s that they should never throw their toys away. Put them on the shelf, bring them out for big group adventures, and then back on the shelf they go. Sometimes, if the stars align, fans demand more. In fact, some folks were very excited for Morbius not because of Jared Leto but rather that it might be a backdoor to making Amazing Spider-Man 3. Whether or not Morbius is a hit or flop doesn’t matter, because it is part of the new foundation of their own Marvel universe. If Morbius ends up becoming a streaming hit, it’s even possible that the character will be revisited for streaming-only projects. As the only huge studio without their own streamer, Sony Pictures is in a unique position to make a significant profit off of straight-to-consumer licensing.
Right now, Sony is two for three with Marvel pictures. The Venom movies are surprise hits, the animated Spider-Verse the triumphant feather in their cap. They also have projects like Kraven the Hunter, Jackpot, and live-action Spider-Verse TV shows still in the works.
Morbius is currently playing in theaters.
What do you think? Do you think Sony Pictures’ Morbius is a hit or a flop, and do you think that still matters? Share your thoughts, reactions, and theories for the future in the comments below.
Featured image via Sony Pictures.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he’s loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book of superhero short stories, Tales of Adventure & Fantasy: Book One is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.