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Why Black Adam Still Bombed At The Box Office After Making Close To $400 Million

Editor's Note: After this story was first published, /Film reported that Warner Bros. Discovery has said that the break-even number for "Black Adam" is $450 million, not the $600 million figure initially reported by Variety and used in this story. 

The year was 2007. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Hollywood career was only beginning to gain traction, and superhero-centric movies were far from the surefire cinematic moneymakers they'd become in only a few more years. Nevertheless, it came to light that the longtime WWE sensation would star in a big-screen comic book adaptation focused on Shazam, but he wouldn't portray the tenured print hero. Rather, he'd take on the role of his greatest enemy, Teth-Adam, better known as Black Adam. As we now know, however, this plan didn't quite come to fruition just like that.

After years in development limbo, "Shazam!" premiered in 2019 with Zachary Levi in the title role. Instead of facing Black Adam, though, he took on Mark Strong's Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. The reason for this change? Because Johnson's Black Adam would get a movie all his own, which took on the simple title of "Black Adam." Around 15 years after he first signed on for the role, Johnson finally got to play "The Man in Black" in 2022, courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery and director Jaume Collet-Serra. Was it the change in the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe Johnson promised? 

Critics didn't care for "Black Adam," but general audiences seem to adore it (via Rotten Tomatoes). Meanwhile, when talking strictly about financials, things aren't looking good. The film is hovering around the $400 million mark at the global box office, and yet, it's still a box office bomb. Here's how and why the long-gestating feature is a monetary failure.

The Man in Black fails to break even

At the time of this writing, "Black Adam" is sitting at just over $384 million, which is certainly not a small amount of money. So, you're probably wondering how could the film be a box office bomb with a worldwide gross like that? Simply put, it all comes down to the movie's budget. As laid out by Variety, "Black Adam" cost around $195 million to produce, but the costs don't stop there. One also has to account for the film's marketing budget, which most agree sits somewhere between $80 and $100 million. On the high end, that's in the neighborhood of $300 million, but we're still not done.

After all, it costs money to get a film like "Black Adam" in theaters — around half of the cash accumulated due to ticket sales. Therefore, if it hopes to break even, "Black Adam" will have to make around $600 million globally to account for its budget, marketing push, and movie theaters' share. However, according to Variety's financial sources, at the rate the film is going, it will be lucky to get out of the $400 million territory. That means "Black Adam" is on track to lose millions that Warner Bros. Discovery can't afford to lose. Still, those in the company maintain that a $400 million gross will be enough to break even.

That's the long and short of how "Black Adam" is still considered a bomb despite raking in a large amount of money, but what led to this point? Let's dig a bit deeper into the film's financial woes.

Black Adam faced some stiff competition

"Black Adam" debuted at the movies on October 21, 2022, and over the course of that weekend, it did pretty well for itself. Globally, it took in just under $143 million, putting it significantly higher than the opening weekend of "Shazam!" back in late March 2019 (via Deadline). As the weeks went on, it progressively took in less and less — a phenomenon hardly uncommon in the film world. However, things went from bad to worse for "Black Adam" during the week of November 11 since it had no choice but to compete against a film unlike anything it had to maneuver around before: "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

Director Ryan Coogler's latest foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe came out swinging during its opening weekend. The long-awaited sequel to 2018's "Black Panther" made a staggering $330 million in its opening weekend, pushing "Black Adam" into the second highest-earner spot after weeks at number one (via Variety) and impacting its box office performance from there on out. Dwayne Johnson himself even acknowledged the box office defeat, congratulating the "Wakanda Forever" team on Twitter as well as Instagram, where he admitted that the Marvel Studios sequel gave "Black Adam" a run for its money in the financial department.

Speaking of the titan that is Marvel Studios and its box office prosperity, we can look to it for another contributing factor to the box office struggles of "Black Adam."

Black Adam was a big swing during a turbulent time for DC films

It's no secret that after years on the entertainment scene, the MCU is a well-oiled machine. The films and television shows fit together nicely, the actors stick around, and there's a consistent vision behind the entire franchise. Thus, when it comes to characters, heavy hitters and niche favorites alike stand a chance to lead successful projects. On the other hand, DC films have faced a perpetual identity crisis for years, with the slate full of new entries into the already-struggling DC Extended Universe (now just the DC Universe), standalone experiments, and franchise starters. Suffice to say, it's a jumbled mess.

Thankfully, James Gunn and Peter Safran are now at the helm of DC Studios: a Warner Bros. Discovery sub-division designed to keep DC productions on the right track and of strong quality. Sadly, it'll take some time for this initiative to really kick into high gear. For years, fans have been jerked around with recasts, retries, story inconsistencies, and more, which have made it difficult and unenjoyable to go out and see most DC movies. It'll take time to rebuild goodwill among fans. With that in mind, it's plain to see that "Black Adam" — despite taking forever to get made — arrived just a tad too early.

Additionally, it doesn't help that Black Adam isn't the most well-known DC character out there. Why give "Black Adam" a try when you don't care about the title character and you've been burned by so many DC-based flicks in the past? With that, between the less-than-favorable state of DC movies, the lead character's lack of mainstream appeal, the continued love for the MCU, and an overinflated budget, it's not hard to figure out why "Black Adam" turned out to be a $400 million bomb.