The Flash movie's poor box office collection threatens to ruin the reputation of the DC Universe

From Hero to Zero: DC Universe
From Hero to Zero: DC Universe's Staggering Setback with The Flash's Box Office Flop (Image via Warner Bros)

The Flash, one of DC Comics' most iconic and swiftest superheroes, made his grand cinematic debut in 2023. With enormous anticipation building in the months leading up to its release, the movie was surrounded by positive buzz, with some even likening its expected quality to the blockbuster success of The Dark Knight.

However, despite the soaring expectations, the reality was starkly different. Unfortunately, the movie did not receive the universally positive reviews many had hoped for.

Beyond mixed critical reception, it ended up being a major financial disappointment. The movie only earned a worldwide collection of $268.5 million, shockingly less than its reported production budget of $300 million. The ramifications of The Flash's poor performance weren't restricted to box office numbers.

Its commercial failure has cascaded, hitting sales of DC's Flash comic books and related merchandise.The aftermath is a testament to how intertwined various mediums can be and how the failure of a high-profile movie can reverberate beyond just the silver screen.


The Flash – DC Comic sales feel the heat

In the run-up to The Flash's premiere, plenty of indicators suggested it would be a big hit. With trailers generating excitement and initial reports drawing comparisons with epic blockbusters, it seemed DC had another winner on its hands.

However, the actual numbers told a different story. Far from being a blockbuster success, The Flash's box office collection paled compared to its hefty budget. Matt Devoe, co-founder of CovrPrice, a platform monitoring comic book sales online, shed light on the indirect impact of the film's poor showing.

Sales of Flash comic books, a series that has been published and beloved for decades, have suffered. Devoe explained:

"Flash books are down. Anything related to this film is kind of dropping."

He pointed out that the film's failure has affected merchandise sales and sown confusion among fans about DC's plans. To put it into perspective, while Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, another 2023 release, boosted the sales of related comics with the first appearance of character Miles Morales fetching impressive prices, Flash has unfortunately had the opposite effect.


Silver lining: Keaton's Batman emerges victorious

Amidst the backdrop of disappointment, there was one shining beacon of success: Michael Keaton's portrayal of Batman. A key aspect of any mainstream superhero movie's success is its merchandising, particularly toy sales.

While Flash Toys saw subdued sales, toys modeled after Keaton's Batman and the iconic Batmobile surged in popularity. Jordan Hembrough, founder of toy retail site Hollywood Heroes, stated:

"When you look at the Flash toys, the character from the movie that outsold everything else was Batman and the Batmobile. And it's because people have this connection to Michael Keaton and his portrayal of the 1989 Batman."

With its nostalgic value and iconic 1989 portrayal, Keaton's Batman proved to be a big hit, even if it couldn't save the movie's overall numbers.


DC Universe in flux

The implications of The Flash's box office flop extend beyond comics and toys. The film's underwhelming performance has spurred questions and speculation about DC's future cinematic universe and strategies.

Originally, Michael Keaton was slated to appear in future DC projects as Batman, effectively replacing Ben Affleck. However, these plans were shelved, leading to more reshuffling in the DC Extended Universe's roadmap.

Despite its promising start, the Flash stands as a cautionary tale for the industry.

A film's performance can influence associated industries, from comic books to toys. And while there may be individual winners, like Michael Keaton's Batman, the overarching narrative remains one of unrealized potential and unexpected outcomes.

As fans await the next offerings from DC, they'll undoubtedly hope for a return to form.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande
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