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Why Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office

Well, Marvel Studios has done it again. In spite of some fierce critical backlash, the studio's splashy opening of Phase 5 has officially blown up the box office and set records in the process. While it hasn't beaten any of the crazy records that Earth-shattering films like "Avengers: Endgame" set, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" has officially joined the ranks of MCU films that blew everyone away at the box office in its opening weekend.

As far as specifics are concerned, the third installment of the "Ant-Man" series kicked off its opening day with $46 million stateside. By the end of the weekend, the film had raked in $120 million. To top it off, the film grossed nearly $130 million across the world, too, putting its opening week total just shy of the quarter of a billion mark.

For comparison, the opening weekend for "Ant-Man and the Wasp," domestically speaking, was around $75 million, although in that case, the international reception was stronger. Still, there's no doubt that the third film in the "Ant-Man" franchise has performed admirably in its initial theatrical run, and the threequel has set a franchise record for the biggest opening weekend of the trio in the process. The question is, why did it do so well right out of the gate? Let's explore some of the potential reasons, shall we?

A longer weekend and low competition

Let's start with the obvious. "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" came out during a nice lull in the endless flow of new films that are perpetually hitting the entertainment market these days. Even with movies coming out in a bit of a haphazard manner post-pandemic, this isn't easy to do. In the past few years, there has been an incredible amount of content pouring out of every studio. The deluge has even prompted Kevin Feige to pump the brakes as far as MCU production is concerned.

Yet, the third installment in the "Ant-Man" franchise managed to arrive at the perfect moment. "Avatar: The Way of Water" had already had its time to shine for the past couple of months and was on the way out of theaters in most places. When "Quantumania" was released, the Academy Awards were coming up, but otherwise, there just wasn't a lot of momentum in the movie industry. This left Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne's third film plenty of room to soak up the limelight on opening weekend.

On top of that, the movie was released on Presidents' Day weekend, which ballooned its three-day total by nearly an extra $15 million domestically. In that extra 24 hours, the running total jumped from $105.5 million to the previously mentioned $120 million. Put the long weekend and the lower competition together, and it's no wonder the movie did well. Technically speaking, it would have been a bigger shock if it had underperformed.

Those Rotten Tomato scores are saying something

"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" has been a lightning rod of debate from the moment it was released. In fact, even before that point, red-carpet showings and pre-screeners already had the critics buzzing — and not in the nice kind of way you'd want with a bug-friendly movie. In fact, as of this writing, the movie's Rotten Tomato score sits at a miserable 48%, just one percentage point above "Eternals." The big difference? The audience score is at 84% for audiences, compared to 77% with "Eternals."

This subtly reveals a couple of important things. First off, even if the critics are suddenly espousing a stricter set of superhero movie standards, audiences clearly aren't done with the MCU. While the critics have their place in the industry, let's be honest — it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that, between the two, the House of Mouse would rather have audiences (and their much bigger pockets) happy with the content that they put out.

Varying responses peak interest, too

When a new movie hits the marquees, it takes all of two seconds for critics and audiences alike to start judging the heck out of it. While the two groups are often at odds over how good or bad a film is, they tend to generally trend in the same direction, too. Not so with "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," though. In this case, the division between the critical critics and approving audiences was clear from the get-go.

What does this have to do with opening weekend box office success? It's simple. In a day and age when everything is instantly on the internet and splashier stories get more attention, a critic versus audience controversy over a movie is bound to attract more attention. The bigger the debate grew over whether "Quantumania" is a good movie or not, the more likely it was to stoke the interests of consumers who were on the fence about seeing the film. 

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in this case, it probably had a hand in helping a middling MCU film blow up the box office.

Tentpole films are appointment viewing now, literally

In the wake of the pandemic, theaters have started to take on more of a ceremonial role in cinema. The giant screens and random movie lineups aren't enough to lure people away from their ever-improving home theaters. Instead, the big screen is becoming a place where everyone and their mother flocks to see the big stuff — and that's exactly the kind of stuff that the MCU specializes in.

In fact, from the moment the first "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" trailer dropped, it was clear that the movie was going to be one loaded with spectacular visuals. The bulk of the story takes place in the Quantum Realm, with CGI shots, scenery, and characters everywhere you turn.

The lure was likely enough to get many to commit to presale tickets in the hopes of getting the best seats in the house and ordering their popcorn for in-theater delivery once they arrived. This newfangled 21st-century ability to order tickets weeks in advance at the push of a button on a smartphone has taken the concept of appointment viewing to a whole new level. Sure, it's possible to return presale tickets in some cases. Still, the momentum of ordering ahead locked many casual and diehard MCU fans alike into an opening weekend date with Kang, Lang, and company — regardless of how early viewers graded the film.

The reemergence of China's movie industry

China's massive economy suddenly reemerged from lockdown early in 2023, and the change provided a much-needed gasp of air for an area of the Asian entertainment market that COVID-19 restrictions had squelched for the past three years. That isn't to say that China's movie-going experience has fully recovered yet, but it's definitely back up and running, and it contributed to the initial success of "Quantumania."

The opening weekend of "Quantumania" in China passed $19 million. If that seems significant and paltry at the same time, well, it is. On the one hand, that's $19 million more than MCU moves have been making for a while now in the People's Republic. After all, it's been nearly four years since a Marvel flick was released in China, as "Spider-Man: Far From Home" was the last MCU film to grace the Chinese silver screen way back in 2019.

On the other hand, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" made about $62 million on its opening weekend, which was one year before the temporary banishment of the MCU from China. Even with numbers so low, it's worth pointing out that the third "Ant-Man" movie was at the top of the Chinese charts opening weekend, which, more than anything, shows the dismal state of Chinese cinema at the moment. Numbers aside, simply the knowledge that China was back in the picture for this one doubtlessly lent a certain degree of added buzz in the lead-up to its release, making the entire opening weekend experience feel that much bigger.

Ant-Man is a popular IP

When you step back from the minutiae of market data and rating debates, there's another clear reason "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" did so well at the box office. It's a delightfully fun IP, even within a universe crowded with interesting characters and franchises. In fact, there are a couple of elements that have helped the "Ant-Man" franchise remain particularly palatable, even three movies in.

First off, there's the humor element. Even if "Quantumania" doesn't have as many opportunities for jokes, comedic relief still has its place in the story. From observing an absurdly satisfied Scott Lang go about his daily life to Darren Cross' MODOK stroking Lang's face in his final moments to almost everything Veb did, the movie provides plenty of opportunities for a laugh.

Then there's the self-contained nature of Ant-Man's adventures. Now, if you're thinking, "Self-contained? This movie had Kang in it, for crying out loud!" we hear you, and you're right. Still, how many cross-overs and team-ups took place in the film? By our count, precisely zero. Yes, Kang and his variants are multi-dimensional villains that we've already seen elsewhere and will continue to see for quite some time. However, in "Quantumania," he's just another villain that Lang, Hope, and their family and friends have to take down on their own. 

The charming ability of the franchise to keep things within its own four walls makes it easier to keep track of everything — an essential element that keeps casual viewers coming back for more.

We want Kang!

Yes, we already made the point that the "Ant-Man" franchise is charmingly self-contained. However, within that context, "Quantumania" also served the crucial purpose of formally introducing (and finally giving us some lengthy face time with) Kang the Conqueror and his larger group of variants as the future big baddie of the MCU.

This carried on a process that had already started in the "Loki" finale, where we met He Who Remains and ended with a shot of statues depicting a more disturbing version of the character. Now we've seen one of his less savory counterparts in all of his awe-inspiring villainous glory. Toss in the ridiculous number of Kang variants that we caught a glimpse of in the Council of Kangs in the credit scene, and let's just say the table is set for an epic showdown at least as big as the Infinity Stone kerfuffle a few years back.

Setting up the future for the Ant-Man franchise

While Kang is a huge long-term deal in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," he isn't the only setup in the film. Scott Lang, who has lacked story momentum since "Avengers: Endgame," got a much-needed shove forward, too. We saw his life post-Thanos as one of the few OG Avengers who is just living it up. He's focused on his family, staying out of trouble with the law, and making up for lost time with his daughter. Oh, and don't forget that little tidbit where we last saw him second-guessing if he just ruined everything with how he handled the Kang issue, too. There's more in store for Scott, by our count.

Hope is still in no man's land, even though she's a title character, which — how does that work, exactly? At the least, we know that she's still alive and ready to rumble — as are her parents, Janet and Hank.

What about Scott's daughter? Cassie Lang is clearly in superhero training mode by the end of the movie. Where that story leads remains to be seen, but we know it's going somewhere.

So, while "Quantumania" provides a nice break from complex cross-overs, it certainly does its part in setting up the future. This was clearly communicated in the marketing, too, which pushed many viewers to flock to theaters as soon as possible to check things out themselves before they heard any long-term spoilers from the rumor mill.

Quantum Realm payoff

The Quantum Realm has been a major tease factor in the MCU for a while now. In fact, all the way back in "Ant-Man and the Wasp," which was released in 2018, the internet was set on fire when eagle-eyed viewers noticed a small, bubble-enclosed urban center tucked away in the background during the Quantum Realm scenes. Even at that distant point in MCU history, the discovery and follow-up questions had Kevin Fiege hinting at the importance of the subatomic region in future phases of storytelling. Since then, the Quantum Realm has casually factored into things like time travel in "Avengers: Endgame" — but only in a peripheral sense.

Here we are, half a decade after the first hint at Quantum Realm sentience, talking about Chronopolis. Not just that, we're meeting its conqueror and witnessing the Quantum Realm become one of the prime conduits through which Kang the Conqueror and others enter the larger MCU storyline.

For those with larger Marvel comic book knowledge, this gradual unfolding has heralded an exciting new page-to-screen chapter for the superhero universe. For more relaxed viewers (who admittedly struggle to keep up with the insane amount of content being produced at this point and the countless ways that they intersect), the Quantum Realm has still been repeated often enough to pique interest and create questions about what this fantasy-like realm could be like. "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" was the first real chance to scratch that itch in a significant way since Scott Lang first entered the Quantum Realm nearly a decade before at the end of his first solo film.

Launching a new phase is always fun

The MCU is a gargantuan project that has been going on for fifteen years, one that spreads across countless franchises while spanning both movies and television. It included over 30 films and the better part of a dozen Disney+ series when "Quantumania" was released. The craziest thing about this historic run of entertainment success, though? It feels in many ways as if it's just getting started.

Now, we're not saying that the MCU is immune. It's just as susceptible to audience fatigue as the next cinematic universe. Yet, the resoundingly positive audience scores send the message that the larger body of fans and viewers aren't ready to quit on Kevin Feige's creation just yet. On the contrary, they're buckling in for whatever comes next. At the moment, that's Phase 5.

Phase 4 was an interesting experience, to say the least. It started with pandemic delays and saw the shift to Disney+ shows. It put certain heroes' stories to bed and kickstarted others. While there was plenty of entertaining stuff along the way, the MCU was clearly resetting after the world-breaking events of the Avengers' knock-down, drag-out war with Thanos. Now the stage has been reset, and Phase 5 appears ready to start moving things forward again, starting with the Kang-infused Quantum Realm adventures of "Quantumania." The much-needed momentum is welcome, and audiences seem to be basking in it.

It's the MCU, guys. What did you expect?

This one feels as old as the hills at this point. Why did "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" do so well on opening weekend? It did well because it's part of the MCU. This is the largest cinematic universe out there, with the added advantage of being produced and promoted by the venerable House of Mouse. What did we expect would happen when a snazzy new installment that goes by the exotically alluring name of "Quantumania" hit the theater marquees?

While the near-violent pushback from critics is a bit of a wake-up call for future films, the MCU is still operating with a little bit of a "too big to fail" mentality. Could that presumptuous mindset ultimately be its undoing? Maybe. However, even if it is, it probably won't happen for a really long time. For now, Scott, Hope, and company are simply the latest group of heroes to benefit from the natural momentum of the unstoppable juggernaut that is the MCU in all of its entertaining glory.