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The 5 Reasons Justice League Bombed At The Box Office

As the dust begins to settle, let’s explore just what exactly led to Justice League’s box office failure.

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It has been 10 days since the release of Justice League. I write that because, in my mind, it feels like twenty. And, sure, part of that is due to the way in which time seems to drudge forward endlessly into a river of constant, bleak despair in the year 2017, but the other part is due to the overall effect Justice League had on moviegoers…or, more accurately, lack of effect.

Because, though Justice League marks a big step in the DC Cinematic Universe, it has failed to capture the zeitgeist in the same way the films that came before it have. Say what you will about the quality of Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, or Batman v. Superman, but they are bonefide blockbuster hits (barely so with BvS, but still.) Justice League’s blockbuster status, though, is a lot more questionable. Opening at $96 million might SEEM okay on the surface, but diving deeper, It’s actually a shockingly low number for the superhero team-up. It’s the lowest opening yet for any of the DC universe films, which in and of itself is a big problem. But combined with the massive production budget (some reports claim the cost could come to over $300 million, and that’s before marketing), and that number looks far less enticing.

And though Thanksgiving weekend MIGHT have been the opportunity for the film to break out in a bigger way, the past five days very much showed that not to be the case. Grossing just $59.6 over the time frame, Justice League failed to even place second in its opening weekend, losing to Disney/Pixar’s Coco in its debut weekend. Combined with a second weekend drop of 57% and things are not looking great for Justice League. At this time, the losses could add up to over $100 million.

So, as I have done in the past when a box office bomb is unleashed upon us, the question must be asked: how did this happen? Well, Mr. Warner Bros: we gave you all the clues. You should have seen this failure coming. Here are 5 of the main five reasons Justice League bombed at the box office.

5. It ran right up against Thor: Ragnarok

Why Hollywood studios continue to do this is baffling to me, but it’s hard to deny that Justice League’s to close-for-comfort release date to Thor: Ragnarok did not help the film at all. On the one hand, I can see Warner’s confidence in placing Justice League so close to Ragnarok — looking at the other two Thor movies, Warner probably didn’t sense much of a threat. What they didn’t know at the time was that the film would prove to be A) a critical and commercial success that dwarfed its two predecessors entirely and B) something of a team-up film involving two Avengers and a fan favorite villain. It was also an effects-heavy fantasy action pic, which…yeah, is also Justice League. The film’s just both seemed too similar to orbit the same release window and, though comic fans conceivably chose to see both, general audiences? For a good portion of them, they chose the old reliable Marvel movie.

4. It didn’t feel like an “event” at the same level of The Avengers

This is where the strange building blocks of the DC Cinematic Universe really comes into play. Unlike Marvel (yes, you are going to hear this comparison a lot through this article, deal with it), DC built up its universe and the characters within it in a rather, shall we say bold way. Well Man of Steel and Wonder Woman were traditional, rather standalone origin stories, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was something…different. Initially it was aimed as a Man of Steel sequel, but ultimately morphed into a Justice League prequel of sorts, featuring the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) in substantial roles, and awkward appearances from the other League members as well.

So, going into Justice League, we’d already seen half of its members team up to fight evil together. This wasn’t an unprecedented event, even within the universe of DC. And though the Big Three combined alongside the likes of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg…we had yet to be introduced to The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. There was no anticipation to see them fight alongside the heroes we already knew, at least not for the non-comic book fans in the audience.

Justice League

And the fact that Superman is bizarrely absence from the majority of the actual film didn’t help either. A residual effect from the decision to leave him dead at the end of Batman v. Superman, killing off Superman before certainly didn’t help Justice League feel like a grander team-up film. It left him out of a huge majority of the marketing, with all the big team posters and group photos not featuring the Man of Steel at all. This was a rather boneheaded decision from the marketing department, because it wasn’t exactly like Superman’s involvement in the team and (eventual) return to it would be some big shock. But by trying to ignore the Big Blue Boy Scout in the room, Justice League felt like even less of a monumental “coming together” than it even did initially.

3. The Justice League marketing was flat all around

Leaving out Superman wasn’t the only problem with Justice League’s marketing, however. Really, the film’s ad campaign was all over the place. It was of course focused heavily on the idea of the superheroes all teaming up to fight bad guys…except we never really found out who that bad guy was, or what he was even after. Like the vague trailers for Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell before it, the trailers for Justice League showed us pretty much nothing of the story. And well that might be fine for the spoiler-phobes that are averse to plot-heavy trailers (such as me), to general audiences, it doesn’t give them much to lean on as far as what drives the film.

These vague trailers are becoming a weird trend for the big blockbusters, and I honestly don’t think they help most movies. Well stuff like Star Wars: The Last Jedi can bank on mystery and general atmosphere to sell itself…some films need a little more help. It doesn’t help that none of the visuals in the Justice League trailer stood out very much (and looked actively bad in places), nor did the trailer present any big “moment” that would put asses in seats. Bringing up The Avengers yet again, there was no instantly iconic moment in the Justice League trailers that was nearly to the level of the spin around group shot, or even Iron Man being pursued by the giant alien monster (“bringing the party to you, etc.). When the coolest visual is Aquaman (a character audiences once again had no particular affection for) riding on top of the Batmobile, you might just have a problem. Hell, even Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had a cooler, more iconic ad campaign than Justice League. Love it or hate it, the teaser trailer for the movie INSTANTLY captures your attention, in a way Justice League never really could.

2. Mixed reviews certainly didn’t help

The film world is torn between the idea that critical reception no longer manners, and that Rotten Tomatoes is the most important thing in the world. Obviously both are pretty contradictory opinions (Rotten Tomatoes is build up off of critic reviews after all), and pretty hyperbolic too. But, if you ask me, reception IS important. Even if “reviews” aren’t the most important thing in the world anymore, social media dictates that the reactions to a movie are generally echoed to millions, and impact a film’s opening substantially. And the reactions to Justice League were, decidedly, mixed.

Not as bad as Batman v. Superman, for sure — there were actually a few positive reactions in the mix, in comparison to what seemed like a deluge of hatred for BvS. But it still wasn’t very good at all, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 41% only being a positive when you compare it to the terrible scores for BvS and Suicide Squad. And well something like Thor: Ragnarok and DC’s own Wonder Women was able to ride good buzz to a strong opening, Justice League was not. Making a movie that is received well, in this day and age, IS important. When even Transformers feels the brunt of critical response, you know that social media reaction is a huge deal. Just making a movie that people seem to like can make up dozens of millions of dollars. And if you haven’t seemed to do that, expect a lower opening from the get go.

1. WB scorched the earth when it came to building up the DC Universe

This is the most obvious, most direct, and most important factor that led to Justice League underperforming — the quality of the previous film’s turned people away. Batman v. Superman was so widely disliked that “pessimistic hesitation” became the default mode for people when it came to this follow-up. Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. just poisoned the well big time here and, though that didn’t matter as much in the franchise films of the past, when you are playing the cinematic universe game, quality MATTERS.

#NeverForget

In a way, the response to this whole DC Cinematic Universe is the exact opposite that Marvel has built up to — when general audiences see the Marvel logo, they expect a super fun, quality time. And for that reason, the Marvel films have soared at a consistently high pace. Hell, the third Thor movie made more money in its first few weekends in release than Justice League has, and that’s not because the character of Thor is more popular than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It’s because Marvel as a brand has installed trust in its audience. The DC movies have, for the most part, inspired bitterness.

And, yes, I get it — there are fans of the DC Movies out there, and by no means is the franchise universally hated. If that was the case, then Justice League would have opened to FAR LESS than $96 million. But with the kind of money Warner Bros is spending, and the impact they clearly wanted this film to have, they have to make movies that are universally beloved. And it’s not like they can’t do that — Wonder Woman is very well liked by audiences, and that appreciation for the movie led to a long, healthy box office run. Because it was good, and people liked it. And though Wonder Woman plays a role in Justice League, her involvement alone wasn’t enough to convince people this enterprise is worth funding. So they didn’t — simple as that.

#AlsoNeverForget

Now will they in the future? That’s a damn good question — Justice League’s entire M.O. seems to be convincing people to like the DC Universe again, adding in better character work and splashes of fun to the previously dour experience. But, at this point, it feels like Warner is building a castle on top of a crumbling foundation. Though the film is still very much flawed, it does represent a mostly positive turning point for the DC Universe, and its characters. But, at this point, the damage has already been done, and a ton of money has been lost. It might be too little too late to save this particular branch of the DC Universe.

…But thankfully DC always has more Suicide Squad spin-offs, right? Maybe Deadshot buys a cell phone.  Has Captain Boomerang ever owned a bear? The possibilities are truly endless!


Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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Let’s Speculate Wildly: Is Marvel Laying The Groundwork For A Thor Crossover In Black Panther 2?

The endings of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther could open up quite the intriguing storyline for Black Panther 2…if the studio chooses to explore it.

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***This post contains spoilers for the end of both Thor: Ragnarok AND Black Panther. Don’t read this if you haven’t watched either film. You have been warned.***

I had a lot of thoughts floating through my head as I watched Black Panther this weekend. First and foremost was awe — Marvel pulled off another great movie, which is increasingly becoming the norm for that company. Secondly was tremendous respect for Ryan Coogler, who managed to not only deliver an incredibly fun superhero movie, but a blockbuster with something important and fascinating to say. Third was a simple wish to have Letitia Wright as my new best friend which, c’mon, shouldn’t be that hard, right?!

But one thought that was in the back of my mind throughout most of Black Panther was, admittedly, a rather geeky one. And the kind of geeky thought that stems from nothing more than the rather childish instincts of having all my favorite toys playing together. Sure, that is a major part of the fun that the Marvel Cinematic Universe represents, but it doesn’t make the instinct of “oh, what if these two met and became BEST FRIENDS?!” any less of a reductive thought. All that being said…wouldn’t it be super awesome if Thor: Ragnarok’s Valkyrie met the Wakandians?! I mean, she would LOVE it there, right? A warrior culture of advanced lifeforms who are primarily protected by a troop of badass, all-female fighters? She would have SO MUCH fun! And since she was the undeniable MVP of Thor: Ragnarok (next to Korg, at least), it would be a lot of great to see her hang out with the great ensemble that was built up in Black Panther. 

…Which got me thinking.

The way Thor: Ragnarok ended left a huge question mark in that particular area of the MCU. Choosing to literally destroy all of Asgard, leaving its occupants in flight and in search of a new home, was kind of a ballsy choice for the sequel. And then when Thor suggested immigrating to Earth in the final line of the film, I couldn’t help but stifle a chuckle. The world can barely handle the people it has — Thor is in for a rude awakening if he thinks that they will just invite a whole crop of alien refugees to share their resources. In a post Brexit, Syrian refugee crisis world, the idea of the Asgardians just coming to Earth and being welcomed with open arms is (sadly) laughable.

But, regardless, the question still remained: what would become of the Asgardians as they made their way to Earth? Clearly, Marvel has a plan here, as it would be very unlike them to set up this plot point without ever addressing it again in the future. If they had no plan for the ship full of Asgardians, why even save them? Well, I have a theory: they were saved because they will serve an important purpose in a future MCU installment. Namely? Black Panther 2. Or whatever it will end up being called. Marvel doesn’t like numbers anymore.

But that’s beside the point. Let’s now shift focus to the aforementioned Black Panther, which concluded with King T’Challa finally realizing (through the inactions of his ancestors) that Wakanda could no longer be a nation of isolationist. That, in the modern world, Wakanda could just not turn its back on people who need aid. He spoke to the UN about creating “bridges” rather than barriers to outside countries, which made for a rather rousing and uplifting message for the film to conclude on.

But what made Black Panther a great movie is how it didn’t rely on moral absolutism, even for things that seemed obvious (i.e you should help those that need it.) Killmonger was one of Marvel’s best villains because he had a point, and was correct in many of his stances towards how Wakanda was doing a disservice to the world. But opening the doors to the outside world has its fair share of potential issues and problems too, which the film briefly addresses as light rebuttals to Killmonger’s main points. If Wakanda shared its advance knowledge with the world, how much of it would be used for ill? What responsibility does Wakanda even have towards the world at large? Should it take precedence over their well being as a singular culture? The film wisely doesn’t provide clear-cut answers for these issues and, though what T’Challa does is ultimately the “right” thing, the right thing can often lead to consequences of their very own.

Which is what I imagine the potential sequel will tackle. Just like how Iron Man 2 delt with the fallout of Tony revealing his identity to the world, and how Captain America: Winter Soldier dealt with the fallout of Steve Rogers being a man out of time, Black Panther 2 will absolutely have to tackle how the massive change in status quo for Wakanda impacts its people and their king. And what better way to do that then by actually showing Wakanda literally opening its doors to another people? Say another people with an equally strong sense of culture and traditions, who are currently floating through space without a home of their own? If my theory is even slightly correct, than Wakanda would be the perfect place for the Asgardians refuges to settle…and Black Panther 2 would be a perfect place to give such a move its due.

After all, such a migration would lend a Black Panther sequel a ton of interesting, relevant themes to dwell upon, themes that can build upon those of the first Black Panther, and can be just as politically relevant and insightful. What kind of conflicts arises when two ancient, powerful cultures are forced to share the same living space? What becomes of the nation of Wakanda when it actually puts its money where its mouth is and adopts a more multi-cultural approach to its civilization? Would doing so risk diluting the culture of Wakanda as it stands, erasing the identity of the people with it? And how would the Asgardians, previously a nation of conquerors and “protectors” over all others, move into a more submissive position in which they have to rely on another people for support? And how would the two kings caught in the middle (Thor and T’Challa) deal with such a cultural clash? Now normally I wouldn’t predict a superhero blockbuster to so strongly address a real-world issue (in this case, the Syrian refugee crisis), but I sure as hell didn’t expect Black Panther to address the themes it did either. So if any modern blockbuster series would, it would be this one. The themes are already baked into its DNA, after all, and the way the way the overall story is moving in the MCU itself would seem to lead to such a plot turn.

And while I can see certainly see a bit of cynicism to the concept of Black Panther 2 so heavily absorbing another branch of the MCU (“What, does Marvel not think Black Panther is a strong enough series to support itself without a big crossover?), I think the potential of the story outweighs the fear of this becoming a paint-by-numbers superhero team-up film. And recent Marvel history not only shows how open and willing they are to play with their characters in this way, but also gives them the benefit of the doubt to do it. Even if this hypothetical Black Panther includes Thor and his brood of supporting characters (who at this point are only Valkyrie and Heimdall, really — technically Loki is with him too but, let’s be honest, that dude is TOAST come Infinity War), I trust the people at Marvel can find a way to add these characters into the world while still allowing the movie to be a Black Panther sequel. Throwing in Hulk for Thor: Ragnarok never made that one feel like less of a Thor movie. And, despite what could have happened, Spider-Man: Homecoming remained a Spider-Man film, and didn’t ever become “Iron Man and His Amazing Web-Swinging Friend” as initially feared. Hell, Captain America: Civil War included nearly all the Avengers in substantial roles, and I still feel like the center of the story was on Steve Rogers and his overall arc. I see no reason why bringing in Thor, Valkyrie, Heimdall (and, of course, Korg) would take away from the focus of the story being on T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, W’Kabi, M’Baku, et al. And the dramatic potential this story could have on the Black Panther AND Thor characters far outweighs the potential negatives, in my mind.

Of course, I have to end all this blatant fan theorizing by stating the obvious: I have no idea whatsoever what will happen in future Black Panther installments, or the rest of the MCU for that matter. Everything I am writing here is pure conjecture, based on nothing, and I very well could be wrong about where this entire thing is heading. After all, Avengers: Infinity War is going to come and blow all my MCU theories out of the water anyways. What the shape of this universe will be post-Infinity War/Avengers 4 is anyone’s guess. For all I know, Infinity War might go full Alien 3, and begin with Thanos killing off every Asgardian aside from Thor. But, like I said, I have more faith in Marvel’s storytelling abilities than that.

And even if Black Panther 2 doesn’t have anything to do with the universe of Thor and its characters…I have to imagine there will be a grander purpose for the Asguardian refugees. And with the movie directly after Thor: Ragnarok concluding with a separate, powerful group deciding to open their borders and help those in need (including by taking in refugees, as directly stated by Nakia earlier in the film)…well? All I can do as a viewer is try to connect the dots.

…AND fanboy out about my favorite characters meeting some of my other favorite characters. Valkyrie and Okoye need to swap war stories about protecting kings. And share fighting tips. And just be awesome, in general. And since the MCU is built specifically to facilitate such team-ups, I argue: why the hell not? We might end up getting something pretty damn interesting out of it along the way.


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Thanks For The New Incredibles 2 Sneak Peek, Disney, But…Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

Or just move the release date to tomorrow. You know, whatever works.

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Fourteen years. Fourteen goddamn years. That’s how long we’ve all been waiting for a follow-up to Pixar’s The Incredibles, and I quite frankly can’t wait another second longer. Unfortunately, the film isn’t coming out until this summer, so I’m left waiting many million seconds more. Approximately 10,398,000 of them, in fact. But, ha ha, who’s counting?!

Yes, the wait has been rough but, at this point, we’ve already waited nearly a decade and half…what’s another three months? That’s what I am telling myself, at least. And unlike in the previous years, we’re actually getting to see something from the film, and receiving concrete proof that yes, this sequel is real and coming soon. And though the initial teaser trailer and posters only gave us a quick hint at what was to come for the film, this new “sneak peek” aired last night during the Winter Olympics gives us by far our biggest glimpse yet of the superhero sequel.

Why is it referred to as a “sneak peek,” you ask? Honestly, it beats the hell out of me. At a minute and a half, this more than qualifies as a teaser trailer, even more so than the 55-second one released in November. And this trailer actually delves into the plot of the film, which is once again more than you can say for the first teaser trailer. But, for Disney, this is nothing but a mere “sneak peek.” Let’s just hope the semantics are only to serve the release of a full-length trailer in the not to distant future (maybe with Wrinkle in Time in March? With a final trailer in front of Avengers: Infinity War in May? I certainly hope so!)

But labeling of marketing material aside, let’s talk what actually happens in this “sneak peek.” The footage opens right from where the first one ended (with the attack of the Underminer), which is a nice little bit of continuity between the two films. But though the original Incredibles ended with the promise of the superpowered family being able to fight crime as public heroes, this footage quickly establishes that it wouldn’t be so easy. And considering the impressive world that was built in the first, that’s not too much of a shocker — the golden age of heroes making a comeback seemed like it would be an uphill struggle, and Mr. Incredible makes that quite clear in the opening of this footage.

Of course, it doesn’t take long before the superhero shenanigans commence once more, this time around led by Elastigirl/Mrs. Incredible, and bankrolled by new character Winston Deavor, very clearly (and delightfully) voiced by Bob Odenkirk. Of course Deavor will probably turn out to have interior motives in trying to restore the world of super-heroics (and working with Elastigirl to do it.) For now though, Elastigirl gets to have a cool motorcycle and cool grey outfit, which is enough for this sneak peek.

Other than that though, the brunt of the new footage rests with Mr. Incredible in stay at home Dad mode, first teased in the last trailer. As funny as some of this looks to be (I particularly laughed at Mr. Incredible’s rant about how math is different, both very much in character for him AND performer Craig T. Nelson), I will admit, this plotline runs the danger of being somewhat hokey. While I’m all for Elastigirl taking the lead (and essentially upending the status quo of the last film), I do think this story runs the risk of being the standard “ha ha, Dad’s can’t parent, what a buffoon!” storyline we’ve seen time and time again. I mean, do we really need Mr. Mom with superheroes? Eh, maybe. If anyone could make it work, it would be Pixar.

And, besides, fuck reservations — I’m supposed to be excited for this one, and this sneak peek mostly made me plenty. I mean, look, it’s Frozone! And Edna Mode! And the Demon form of Jack-Jack! Come on now, my excitement remains through the roof. And if I’ve learned anything from long in development sequels like The Phantom Menace, Ghostbusters, The Hobbit, and Tron Legacy, it’s that being unreasonably excited for something is a recipe for being completely, 100% satisfied. Always!

Incredibles 2 (no “The,” it’s cleaner) hits theaters June 15.


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Fox Once Again Rearranges Its Future Slate, To Increasingly Confusing Results

Forget it, I don’t know what Fox is thinking anymore.

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A few weeks back, I expressed pretty abject confusion about Fox’s decision to rearrange its big X-Men properties around on their release slate. I just didn’t see any sense in shifting Deadpool to the crowded May release frame, nor did I see the reasoning for pushing back New Mutants a massive 10 months down the calendar (aside from the assumption that the film was in trouble, which Fox of course categorically denied.) I tried to wrap my head around it based on the PR spin Fox was utilizing, and I started to see how maybe there was a little sense then. After all, their reason for shifting these two films was because they were afraid of oversaturating their releases, and believed that some space between the two was necessary. Sure, more than half a year of space might seem like an overreaction but, I can see that reason for moving the releases to their new dates…if I squinted REALLY hard.

But now Fox has once again rearranged their next year of releases, shifting two of their biggest blockbusters from their previous release dates and adding yet another. And, believe it or not, said shifts only make their schedule even MORE confusing. Even if, on the surface, you can see the logic of what they did on an individual basis. Let’s jump right into it.

Starting with Alita: Battle Angel, the freaky looking sci-fi anime adaptation from director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron. Fox seemed pretty intent on having this one be one of their big tentpoles of the summer, but no longer — the studio has pushed the film a substantial five months, from a July 20 launch all the way to December 21, 2018. This is the pre-Christmas release spot that obviously served Cameron’s Avatar quite well, and has helped similar blockbusters ever since.

…Which is why it’s currently occupied by two other huge blockbusters in the form of Paramount’s Bumblebee and Warner Bros’ Aquaman. That’s not to mention Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a week earlier, and Disney’s own Mary Poppins Returns a week late. It’s an insanely crowded release area, is what I’m saying, and there’s absolutely no way in hell Alita: Battle Angel is going to break out as a stange looking sci-fi film with little franchise awareness. It already had slim chances at the end of July, but Christmas 2018? Fox just sent the genre picture out there to die, regardless of its quality.

Meanwhile, Fox has also shifted the release of another one of its summer blockbusters, Shane Black’s The Predator. Originally set for release on August 3, The Predator will now land on September 14. While that used to be a dump month, the gargantuan success of It (and, on a smaller scale, Fox’s own Kingsman: The Golden Circle) makes this now a viable month for more horror-tinged blockbusters, a factor I’m sure Fox considered when it moved the film. Still, this is a strange decision in that it leaves Fox with only ONE blockbuster this summer, the aforementioned Deadpool. Which was moved to May, in the fear that it was releasing too close to New Mutant’s previous April date. But you know what would have helped that? Putting Deadpool 2 on the July 20 date now left vacant of any big summer blockbuster (unless you count Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again)Instead, Deadpool 2 now has to compete with the tail end of Avengers: Infinity War, and have its own legs cut off by Solo: A Star Wars Story…for some reason.

Anyways, in less confusing release date moves, Fox has placed Murder on the Orient Express sequel Jewel on the Nile for a release date of November 8, 2019. Of the three release date, this one makes the most sense, as Murder quietly made over $100 million domestic with a similar early November date. And though Wonder Woman 2 might make for some heavy competition just a week before…look, there’s like NO room left anymore for a would-be blockbuster to have any time to itself, so a week break is all Jewel on the Nile can probably ask for. This was a smart release date decision on Fox’s part. But I can’t say that for their decisions overall! I guess we’ll see who is right, though, when all these films hit theaters. Which, to reiterate, is…

  • Deadpool 2 on May 18, 2018
  • The Predator on September 14, 2018
  • Alita: Battle Angel on December 21, 2018
  • New Mutants on February 22, 2018
  • Jewel on the Nile on November 8, 2019

As always, these are where the release dates rest right now. Who knows what can shift in the months ahead. Stay tuned.


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