- "Dark Phoenix" is the latest "X-Men" movie, but it dropped that designation from its title in the US.
- However, the movie is called "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" in most international territories, where the "X-Men" franchise has always excelled at the box office.
- It suggests that the studio Fox, after nearly 20 years, had lost faith in the "X-Men" brand in the US.
- The movie was also postponed twice to undergo significant reshoots.
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"Dark Phoenix," which comes to theaters this weekend, is the 12th "X-Men" movie, and the final major one made by the studio Fox before it was acquired by Disney. But the movie dropped the "X-Men" designation from its title in the US, which is one sign it was doomed from the start.
It’s the only movie in the main "X-Men" series of films to not include the name of the superhero team of mutants in its title. Spin-offs like "Logan" and "Deadpool" got away with it, but they are far removed from the franchise’s main continuity.
The "Dark Phoenix" director, and longtime franchise producer and writer, Simon Kinberg, explained that the decision to drop "X-Men" from the movie’s title was to "indicate that it’s a more character-driven movie."
"We really wanted to indicate that this is the ‘Dark Phoenix’ story and that she’s at the center of this story," Kinberg told Collider in October. "She’s the A-plot of this story. Everything around this story revolves really centrally around Jean/Dark Phoenix as really the subject of the movie, not the object of the movie."
But there could be a more sensible reason for the title strategy.
The movie is called "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" in most international markets, and the franchise has always found more success internationally than at the domestic box office. As Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio pointed out, every "X-Men" movie besides the first three have made more money outside of the US.
It suggests that Fox has lost faith in the "X-Men" brand in the US after nearly 20 years of releasing these movies, which isn’t a great sign for a movie’s success. "Dark Phoenix’s" 2016 predecessor, "X-Men: Apocalypse," made just $160 million in the US and received a 47% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. And "Dark Phoenix" is already off to a worse start.
Boxoffice.com projected "Dark Phoenix" to earn $47 million in its opening weekend in its long-range tracking of the movie in April. That already would have been the lowest opening in the franchise, behind 2014’s "The Wolverine," which made $53 million. But "Dark Phoenix" is currently the worst-reviewed "X-Men" movie yet with a 21% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, which could further hurt its chances at the box office.
The "Dark Phoenix" release date was also postponed twice, which is usually a sign that a movie is in trouble. It was originally set for release in November, then moved to February, and again to June. The movie underwent significant reshoots that dramatically altered its ending.
"There was more of a cosmic story … the story ended in space in a much more significant way," producer Hutch Parker told Digital Spy in May. "We actually shifted that to be back on Earth, most notably, so that we can involve our main characters and see them come together."
No matter what happens with "Dark Phoenix," the franchise’s future is in the hands of Disney and Marvel Studios.
- ‘Dark Phoenix’ is the worst-reviewed ‘X-Men’ movie of all time, but the international box office could save it
- ‘Dark Phoenix’ proves it’s time for a big break from the ‘X-Men’ franchise, but the international box office could make that a tough decision for Disney
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