Warner Bros. bet big on identity politics in order to market director Angel Manuel Soto’s Blue Beetle film, and it completely failed in the film’s opening weekend with the estimated gross performing worse than initial projections.
According to The-Numbers, Blue Beetle brought in $25.4 million at the domestic box office. It did another $18 million at the international box office for a global gross of $43 million. While the film’s box office numbers are exceptionally poor, it did become the highest grossing film unseating Barbie, which only brought in $21.5 million
This is the second worst opening weekend box office for a DC film since the DC Extended Universe launch of Man of Steel. The only film Blue Beetle bests is Wonder Woman 1984, which had a day and date release on HBO Max meaning it released to theaters the same day it was available to stream on HBO Max. Wonder Woman 1984’s opening weekend was $16.7 million domestically.
Given Blue Beetle had the second worst opening weekend that means it fared worse than the recently released The Flash, which only had a $55 million opening as well as Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The Zachary Levi led movie had an opening of $30.1 million.
This poor opening weekend box office underperformed projections from both Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro and barely edged out Variety’s Rebecca Rubin if the early estimates hold. D’Alessandro predicted the film would gross between $28 million and $32 million domestically in its opening weekend.
He specifically noted that the movie was “overindexing with Latino and Hispanic audiences” and thus there is a hope “that there will be plenty of walk-up business.”
Rubin predicted the movie would gross between $25 million and $32 million.
The film did fit into Shawn Robbins at Box Office Pro’s projections. He predicted the movie would do between $22 million and $32 million. However, like D’Alessandro he asserted the movie had “potential to over-index among Hispanic families that could help Blue Beetle come in slightly above what have until recently been bearish tracking ranges.”
He did seem to indicate it would fare worse than Shazam! Fury of the Gods given its pre-sales were behind the Zachary Levi starring film.
This poor box office performance comes amid months of Warner Bros. promoting the film via identity politics specifically to Latinos.
At the beginning of June, the film’s star Xolo Maridueña told Empire, “The goal was to create a movie for a young me and a young Angel [Manuel Soto, the film’s director,] that said, ‘Hey, man, someone who looks like you or comes from a similar background can be a superhero.”
He added, “The second thing was to open more doors for people like us. As fun as it is to get into this superhero world where everything is [dialled up to] 110 per cent, [it’s] the characters… that I’ve [most] related to.”
In July, Soto confirmed the film featured an illegal immigration allegory. He told MovieMaker, “There is a history that exists before an ICE raid. A history that includes traveling miles, and danger, working hard, becoming a family, creating memories, and thinking that everything is going to be okay.”
“But all of a sudden, everything that you have fought for, everything that you have worked for, everything that you have built, is now burning. I needed the depiction to be triggering, because it’s the experience of many,” he added.
A month later at the beginning of August, Soto explained how one of the film’s villains, Carapax represents the “unknown, or forgotten, or brushed under the rug history of interventionism in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
He told The Playlist this was initially his idea for Bane and a Bane film when he pitched it to Warner Bros., but he was unsure if he would ever get to work on Bane so he chose to apply the backstory he made up for Bane to Carapax in Blue Beetle.
Soto stated, “As far as Bane goes, the comics that are about Bane’s story, it felt like he’s very misunderstood much like Carapax in the movie. He is a product of his environment and that history has been buried. The history of the Caribbean, the Antilles. It’s a history that’s brushed off in history books.”
“So for me, it was very important to be seen,” he continued. “And with the character of Bane, the formation of this villain, I think in his own right, he’s also a hero in his story. So whether whatever happens at the end that might have gotten distorted because of what was done to him, I think that what he represents is a lot of the unknown, or forgotten, or brushed under the rug history of interventionism in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
He later detailed, “But while working on the character of Carapax, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever make a Bane movie. Let me take what I loved about Bane, about the backstory that I wanted to explore and let’s give it to Carapax.’ Because part of the idea was that maybe Carapax and Bane came from the same place. Maybe!? I mean Pago Island, right?”
As for why he believed this backstory was important, Soto said, “Because we need it. When we’re introduced to the world in movies, right, where we are seen as villains, it’s just given that we are born that way.”
“And when we talk about the history of Latin America, nobody dares to question, well, what happened before. Okay, well what happened before? More times than none when you go back even before 1954, but if we want to go to 1954 in Guatemala it was U.S. interventionism that drove these places to the miseries that they’re in,” he relayed.
Soto added, “So I’m not embarrassed to talk about it,” Soto asserted. “History is there. Nobody’s trying to blame something.”
Soto did not stop there with the identity politics marketing. He would question if having a Latino superhero on a Times Square billboard was possible.
He said to TheWrap, “Us seeing a Latino superhero of our own in Times Square is something that, if were think about it, is that even possible? Now it’s happening!”
Soto continued, “Being able to not only be promoted in the areas where our community transmits, but to also be up there with the other big posters and the big movies just shows you the power that we have and that we can also be the heroes that we know we can be.”
Speaking with Collider, he said the film needed a theatrical release because it featured a Latino superhero and Latino family, and highlights Latino culture differently than other films.
When I came into the project the mandate was, at the time, everything goes to HBO Max, right? … And I was like, ‘You know, sure. I’ll do the movie, of course, it’s a great opportunity.’ But I’m like it can’t be that the first time that we have a Latino superhero front and center. Not just a Latino playing a hero, but where he’s a Latino, his family is Latino, and they’re gonna be actually being heroes of their own stories for the first time.”
“I was like it cannot just live on streaming,” he asserted. “Like he has to go to the theaters. Like the whole experience of watching these fantastical movies is to be amazed and in awe. And what about being able to see our culture represented differently.”
Soto continued, “So we worked very, very hard to do this world building where the action sequences, the suit, the passion of the family, and the culture aspects are presented in way worthy of watching it not only in the theater, but even on IMAX.”
“And being able to see our communities that way I think we did an amazing job in bringing it to life on the concept development of it all. That at the end Warner Bros. decided that this movie has to go theaters,” he added.
He also informed the outlet that film featured the themes of displacement, colonialism, and gentrification.
Soto stated, “I mean I wanted this film because it is the first time you see a character that is Latino on the paper that his families are Latino. I really wanted to ground on the experiences that form a lot of us, right?”
“Oftentimes in a lot of movies our stories are told like the in the middle of the sentence or in the middle of the paragraph. Like boom gangster. Boom you came out of prison,” he said. “We have have a chance to tell a history of where we come from and the stuff that really does affect us.”
“So how can we introduce this character because this is what this movie is? It’s like a first act of a potential saga that we want to create for the Blue Beetle journey. And one of the things that we wanted to do first of all was hire Mexican actors,” he asserted. “Not just Mexican Americans, but also go to Mexico and get like the best stars from Mexico for this movie like Damián Alcázar or Adriana Barraza.”
“And they bring their own authentic experiences to the movie and that helps a lot to inform the conditions we want to put the Reyes family in. We want the Reyes to live in a world that affects their environment, that affects their decision,” he elaborated.
From there he revealed the themes the movie would explore, “For example, in my case, from Puerto Rico, displacement, colonialism, gentrification. Those are things that are real threats. Home insecurity, not putting food on the table, proper healthcare. All those things that are villains, but at the same time what are all those things that are are heroic things like community, like standing up against a tyrant, or standing up against the things that weaken us, but doing it through the power of family and community.”
“So being able to hone in to those experiences that I know firsthand, that the writer also knows firsthand because Gareth [Dunnet-Alcocer] is from Queretaro, Mexico. We were able to find where our different journeys intersect in a similarity of experiences that not only affect our individual countries, but also affects countries in Latin American and abroad,” Soto concluded.
What do you make of Blue Beetle’s opening weekend box office?