A not-so-excellent adventure for "The Fantastic Four"

"Fantastic" would be the last word to describe "The Fantastic Four's" box-office performance.

The Marvel superhero epic, which reportedly cost $200 million to produce and market, earned a disappointing $26.2 million from moviegoers in the U.S. and Canada this weekend. That's well under the $40 million that had been expected, raising the possibility that 21st Century Fox (FOXA), which bankrolled the movie, might have to take a write-down against its earnings.

"(It) depends on total marketing and production costs versus revised expected revenues," said Hal Vogel, an independent media analyst, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "Outsiders wouldn't know this with precision."

Shares of 21st Century Fox, the heart of Rupert Murdoch's empire that includes Fox News, slipped just a tick, closing at $30.66 today, but it continued the 11 percent plunge that began last week amid a broader sell-off in the media sector.

One problem may be the changing tastes of moviegoers. According to a recent Cowen & Co. report, the box office for Marvel films has fallen over the past two years.

"Of the eight Marvel-produced and -licensed films released since July 2013, five of those underperformed the amount predicted by our (forecast) with the average underperformance at $38 million," the July 30 note said. "Most recently, 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is set to be down 25 percent from its predecessor (though still performing well ahead of our model prediction, similar to its predecessor), and 'Ant-Man' will likely finish with the second lowest domestic performance of any Marvel-produced film."

Fox had high hopes for the "Fantastic Four." The teaming of Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1961 and is considered a classic by fans of the genre. The current movie featured some of the hottest young stars in Hollywood including Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Toby Kebbell and Kate Mara.

Moreover, the two recent "Fantastic Four" movies 2005's "Fantastic Four" and 2007's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" disappointed many fans, who were eager to see what they hoped would be a more entertaining story, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak.

"I can't fault Fox," he told CBS MoneyWatch, adding that a "confluence" of negative publicity and poor reviews sunk the picture. "They did everything they were supposed to" to promote the movie, Dergarabedian said. "On paper this was a home run."

Unfortunately for Fox, "The Fantastic Four" proved no match for the real world superpowers of negative publicity on both traditional and social media -- or terrible reviews. Director Josh Trank gained headlines in the press for "erratic behavior" and reportedly disavowed the film in a tweet he later deleted.

The reaction to the film by moviegoers was ugly. Only 9 percent of vetted critics on the closely watched RottonTomatoes.com liked the movie. One reviewer on the site said the film "may just be one of the worst superhero films I have ever seen, and that is saying something coming from me."

A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox didn't respond immediately to a CBS MoneyWatch email requesting comment for this story.

Writing down poorly performing movies is a common practice in Hollywood.

Walt Disney (DIS) took a $200 million hit to its bottom line after the disappointing performance of the science fiction epic "John Carter" in 2012, and a year later it wrote-down $190 million after "The Lone Ranger" flopped. The Burbank, California, company is expected to lose between $120 million and $140 million on "Tommorowland," a science fiction epic starring George Clooney released earlier this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

DreamWorks Animation (DWA) has taken write-downs in recent years in the wake of disappointing ticket sales of "Rise of the Guardians," "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" and "Turbo."

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.