So it wasn’t the belle of the ball with critics, and it seems many of the audience members who turned up in the first weekend agreed considering the movie earned a toxic “C+” CinemaScore, which suggested the word-of-mouth was horrid. The second weekend drop bore that out, as did the fact the movie earned only $73 million in total nationally.
However, the film’s trajectory on digital release is a different story. Currently, Morbius sits at a relatively gentle 71 percent “positive” score among audiences who voted on Rotten Tomatoes. And while that poll is certainly unscientific, it does suggest a generally growing sense of fondness for the movie among those who are renting it online for $19.99. And, indeed, the movie has proven to be one of the most popular PVOD rentals of the last several weeks, debuting in first place on premium video-renter Vudu and in second place on Apple’s iTunes and Google Play where it notably was behind Sony’s Uncharted, which is currently being rented for $5.99 in the U.S., as opposed to Morbius’ $19.99 (which stems from the picture being rushed online after a mere 45 days versus a longer theatrical window for Uncharted).
Now, are people renting the movie ironically? And are these same folks encouraging friends to do it too as a gag? It’s possible given the subjective but generally prevailing notion among critics that the movie is a half-hearted abomination created by a studio with a seemingly fatalist desire to replicate the Marvel Studios formula no matter how monstrous or unholy the results.
However, there is a chance the movie could wind up turning a small profit on home release. While the movie was a disappointment at the domestic box office, it still nearly matched its production budget of $75 million in the U.S. where it grossed a total of $73.3 million (and counting). Further, when the global box office is taken into account, it has thus far earned $163.3 million. With its cheap-for-a-blockbuster budget (a product and, in this case, godsend from Sony Pictures CEO Tom Rothman’s legendarily spendthrift tendencies), the movie isn’t that far off from turning a profit based on the old conventional wisdom that a film needs to triple its budget at the box office to offset exhibitors’ take and marketing costs.
If that rule of thumb applies to Morbius, it should probably enter the green due to VOD popularity and ancillary markets. The question thus becomes if squeaking past a crisis due to a lowball budget and “It’s Morbin’ Time” memes can somehow create a safe space to green light a true Morbius 2? After all, it’s worth noting the meme has persisted long enough that it’s subtly shifted from mocking the movie to championing it by keeping the product at the forefront of the minds of digital audiences. Is it getting them to like it?
If we’re being completely honest, probably not. Right down to Exhibitor Relations Co. cheekily heralding Morbius’ return to theaters by casting the movie in the same self-serious light as The Batman, the entire perception around this flick continues to be sarcastic. Attempting to roll the dice again on a would-be franchise because social media made Morbius ironically cool would be a hell of a risk given similar superhero sequels based off of movies that were lukewarmly received the first time tended to lose a lot of money. Think of that Ghost Rider follow-up, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) or how even James Gunn’s genuinely great The Suicide Squad (2021) suffered in the shadow of its successful but generally loathed predecessor, Suicide Squad (2016).