What exactly is going on with AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM? It is the followup to 2018’s AQUAMAN, which dominated the holiday season en route to a $355M domestic haul. Yet, it’s been largely radio silence from Warner Bros for the sequel. With only 113 days to go before its December 20th release, there is no official poster. And no trailer.
This has led to speculation that the film won’t be ready for its scheduled release date. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Warner Bros. had a terrific opportunity to launch KINGDOM in front of BARBIE. And yet, they didn’t, presumably because the material wasn’t ready.
The online rumor mill has been especially active these days thanks to the two industry strikes. There’s a certain parlor game in predicting what will be pushed into 2024. Those who have KRAVEN THE HUNTER, CHALLENGERS, GHOSTBUSTERS or DUNE: PART II on their bingo card are in the lead. KINGDOM is most certainly still on the top of many people’s lists despite the fact that the studio made no mention of the film being moved when it announced DUNE was being pushed to next year.
That’s not to say that AQUAMAN is a certainty to stay on the December 20th date, but the fact that it didn’t move with DUNE suggests it’s not going anywhere. With that said, at 113 days out KINGDOM ertainly feels late to the party. As THE DIRECT pointed out this week, KINGDOM now holds the record for the smallest window between trailer and release for a DC film.
But, it may not be too late. While it may hold the record among DC films, it’s not the shortest window among superhero movies. That record belongs to THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Disney waited until 81 days before release to give fans a first look at that one. With a $343M haul, no one could argue that the short window hurt THOR.
Interestingly, shorter windows have become the norm for superhero films post-pandemic. Of the superhero films that opened between 2015 and 2019, the average window between trailer drop and opening day was 205 days, or roughly seven months. Since 2021, the average gap has dropped to 116 days, which is just short of four months.
Why the smaller window? Certainly some of it can be attributed to pandemic-related delays and complications. Production and marketing schedules were sent into disarray. But that doesn’t explain why the trend is continuing to this day.
The shorter window also happens to coincide with declining grosses for superhero films. Coincidence? Maybe. But it is worth noting that Warner Bros. released the first teaser for BARBIE seven months before release and official photos even earlier. Universal gave us a teaser for OPPENHEIMER a full year before release. We can all agree that both films felt like events.
Prior to the pandemic, long-lead campaigns were the norm for more than a decade. But they can be risky. If a campaign goes on too long, audiences may think the film has already come out. Or worse, they grow bored before the film arrives in theaters.
But, when they work, an extended campaign with regular marketing drops can be enormously effective in making a film feel significant and an event that consumers want to be a part of. It projects confidence on the part of the studio. Lately, however, that has been the problem with many superhero offerings. They feel smaller, more diminished. Less important.
Could it be that it’s time for these campaigns to come back? If so, we should be getting trailers for DEADPOOL 3 and CAPTAIN AMERICA: BRAVE NEW WORLD any day now. That feels like that’s a long shot.
So, is AQUAMAN: THE LOST KINGDOM late? Yes, But it’s not far off from other recent superhero films.