Last month, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige unveiled extensive plans for phases 5 and 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in front of a raucous crowd at San Diego Comic-Con. Among a slew of reveals that included films and TV series featuring both familiar characters and ones new to most fans, perhaps the biggest announcement was not one, but two new Avengers films set for 2025. “Avengers: Endgame,” the 2019 Marvel blockbuster was thus, apparently, not the true end of the collective’s storyline.
The news came amid a rare slump for the Walt Disney Co.-owned property: Many of Marvel Studios’ latest films, including “Thor: Love and Thunder,” have underwhelmed at the box office. While the coronavirus pandemic and rise of streaming options have certainly been factors, the slump may stem in part from a tangible increase in superhero fatigue among moviegoers. New data from Morning Consult shows that enjoyment of the seemingly never-ending stream of superhero content continues to drop among U.S. adults — and among even self-identified Marvel fans.
Fewer Americans Enjoy Superhero Movies This Year Than Last
Superhero fatigue is up among adults, Marvel fans
- The share of adults who said they enjoy superhero movies dropped 5 percentage points from 64% in November to 59% in a late July survey conducted following the Comic-Con announcements. Meanwhile, the share of adults who do not enjoy superhero movies jumped 5 points in that time, from 36% to 41%. That share has increased 9 points since a 2018 survey.
- While 82% of Marvel fans still enjoy superhero movies, per the July survey, nearly one-third (31%) said they’re “getting a little tired of so many of them,” a 2-point uptick from last year. The 82% who enjoy them is down from 87% in November. The share of Marvel fans who do not enjoy superhero movies increased 5 points in that time, from 13% to 18%.
- If there is a silver lining for Marvel, DC Comics and the rest of the superhero industry, it’s that the share of Gen Z adults who said they enjoy watching superhero movies and will continue to watch them in theaters increased from 47% in November to 53% in July. The generation was also the likeliest to say they plan on watching Marvel’s new releases in theaters. The latest “Batman” film, which starred Robert Pattinson and was released by Warner Bros. in March, quickly became fodder for content on the Gen Z-dominated app TikTok. The generation may also be excited by the possibility of pop star Harry Styles taking on a larger role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the introduction of other young actors like Hailee Steinfeld.
- Meanwhile, the shares of millennials, baby boomers and Gen Xers who said they enjoy watching superhero movies and will continue to watch them in theaters each dropped compared to last year.
What’s next for Marvel
While the merits of the superhero film fatigue theory have long been debated, the conversation has undeniably ramped up as Marvel and its competitors continue to churn out new projects.
Recent films like “Eternals,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Black Widow” didn’t generate as much profit as previous Marvel releases, though they still performed better than the vast majority of films released in theaters (“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a notable success story: The sequel raked in nearly $2 billion globally, even as omicron cases rose in late December and early January). Last month, “Thor: Love and Thunder” beat most box-office expectations in its opening weekend but sales dropped 68% the following weekend — a sign that excitement for the fourth installment in the “Thor” series couldn’t be sustained.
A Walt Disney Co. spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the lukewarm box-office results of some of the newer Marvel titles is most likely due to audiences’ continued concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. But Morning Consult data shows that superhero fatigue started even before the pandemic — and may now be accelerating.
The surveys were conducted Nov. 19-21, 2021, and July 30-31, 2022, among representative samples of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.