The latest installment in the DC Extended Universe, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” made a less-than-spectacular splash in its opening weekend. With an estimated domestic gross of $28.1 million, this figure marks the fourth-lowest debut within the DCEU franchise. The film’s performance falls short of initial projections, which anticipated an opening between $32 million and $42 million.

Warner Bros. Discovery, the studio behind the film, noted the opening revenue was significantly lower than the $67.8 million debut of the first “Aquaman” movie in 2018. The sequel’s domestic performance is expected to reach around $40 million over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend.

Comparing DC Extended Universe Performances

The performance of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” aligns with recent trends within the DC Extended Universe. Since the original “Aquaman” film in 2018, only “Black Adam” has surpassed the $60 million mark in opening ticket sales, achieving $67 million in early 2022. In contrast, the sequel’s opening haul is even smaller than the $30.1 million earned by “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” earlier this year.

Despite the domestic results, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” has added $80.1 million from international ticket sales, bringing its total expected global take to $120 million. This echoes the first film’s success, which saw over 70% of its $1.15 billion box office coming from outside the U.S. and Canada.

Critiques and Challenges Facing the Franchise

The DC Extended Universe has faced criticism for its film quality, particularly regarding CGI-heavy action sequences and disjointed narratives. Additionally, the pandemic era brought challenges to box office performances globally. Even with the easing of restrictions, the DCEU has struggled to attract audiences, a situation exacerbated by the announcement of a franchise reboot in 2025 under James Gunn and Peter Safran.

This planned reboot has led to concerns among fans about the relevance of current releases, including “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “Blue Beetle,” “The Flash,” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” which are perceived as disconnected from future DC projects.

Potential for Recovery and Audience Trends

Despite these challenges, there is optimism for “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” in the coming weeks. The film faces limited competition and may benefit from the holiday season, a time when families seek entertainment outside the home. According to Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, films like “Aquaman 2” that open in late December can often attract audiences throughout the holiday season and into the new year.