The DCEU had quite a few misses at the box office, but “Aquaman” but was one of the big hits. Alongside “Wonder Woman,” it offered hope that Warner Bros.’ DC properties could match the heights that the adjacent Marvel Cinematic Universe was reaching on a regular basis. “Aquaman” grossed a massive $1.15 billion worldwide, with more than 70% of that coming from overseas markets. China was a major driving force, with a total box office gross of $291.8 million that made up around a quarter of the movie’s global total. That does add an asterisk to the success of the first “Aquaman” movie, since American studios only keep 25% of ticket sales in China, compared to 50% or more domestically.
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” has also leaned on foreign markets to make it to that $400 million milestone, but this time around it’s been less China-driven and more of a collective effort. Star Jason Momoa hasn’t been tested much as a lead movie star outside of the DCEU, so it’s hard to say how much of this success is owed to his global appeal, but there’s no denying that he’s a charismatic and enthusiastic presence on press tours. His other big movie of 2023, “Fast X,” also made the vast majority of its money overseas, and that may have helped give Momoa a boost ahead of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” hitting theaters. Another factor is that Aquaman as a character is much less culturally tied to America than, say, Superman. As the ocean-dwelling King of Atlantis, he touches all shores.
It’s still unlikely that “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” will break even at the box office, but it’s certainly not the disaster it looked like on its opening weekend.