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How "Fantastic Four" Became A Hollywood Cautionary Tale

The superhero reboot's estimated $26.2 million domestic debut is less than half the opening weekend box office of the first two Fantastic Four movies.

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The Fantastic Four reboot opened with an estimated $26.2 million in North America over the weekend. It is one of the lowest debuts ever for a modern superhero movie released by a major studio.

Alan Markfield / 20th Century Fox

In a relatively sleepy box office weekend all around, Fantastic Four still couldn't surpass Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which made an estimated $29.4 million in its second weekend.

Even more damning, the new Fantastic Four movie opened with less than half the domestic box office debuts of the two earlier Fantastic Four movies from the 2000s.

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The 2015 Fantastic Four attempted a more grounded and serious approach — and was rejected both by critics (with a 9% score on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences, who gave the film a "C-" rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore.

20th Century Fox

The only halfway decent news for the film is that its international opening included strong debuts in Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, and Thailand — but overall, the $34.1 million gross in 43 overseas territories is not nearly enough to rescue the financial future of this superhero franchise.

When adjusting for domestic ticket price inflation, meanwhile, the contrast between those earlier Fantastic Four movies and the new one is even more stark.

Fantastic Four's terrible box office performance is perhaps less of a surprise considering the film has weathered arguably the worst pre-release buzz of any film in 2015.

Charles Sykes / AP

It started at the beginning of the year with reports of extensive reshoots, which is never a good sign. An embarrassing radio interview with Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan drew some sympathetic coverage, but Miles Teller's outrageous Esquire profile drew far more damning headlines.

The worst buzz, however, surrounded the film's director, Josh Trank.

Eric Charbonneau / AP

The 31-year-old filmmaker (pictured above with Fantastic Four villain Toby Kebbell) had only made one feature film prior to Fantastic Four, 2012's well-regarded found footage superhero film Chronicle. But earlier this year, he first came under scrutiny amid reports in May that his behavior while working on Fantastic Four led him to be fired from directing one of the stand-alone Star Wars movies.

Trank denied those reports earlier this month, and it might have ultimately blown over — had Trank not publicly repudiated his own film, tweeting on Thursday that his version of the film was "fantastic" and "would've received great reviews."

Trank quickly deleted the tweet, but the damage was already done. Unnamed sources came forward in an Entertainment Weekly report alleging that Trank demonstrated "combative and abusive behavior … toward the crew, producers, studio and even the stars." Trank has become a so-called troubled director, and his version of Fantastic Four has become not just a bomb, but a Hollywood cautionary tale about handing the reins of an expensive superhero franchise to a relatively untested director.

Here are the estimated top 10 box office figures for Friday to Sunday, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

1. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation — $29.4 million

2. Fantastic Four* — $26.2 million

3. The Gift* — $12 million

4. Vacation — $9.1 million

5. Ant-Man — $7.8 million

6. Minions — $7.4 million

7. Ricki and the Flash* — $7 million

8. Trainwreck — $6.3 million

9. Pixels — $5.4 million

10. Southpaw — $4.8 million

*Opening weekend

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