A stark demonstration of the old adage about not counting one’s chickens before they’re hatched has unexpectedly played out in the high-stakes world of Hollywood box-office gambit this year, as Warner Bros. has watched its ultra-expensive franchise-starter Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice be increasingly cited as a “disappointment,” despite a gigantic opening weekend haul and ticket sales that a studio would be elated to see under normal circumstances. And while some of those dark tidings can be attributed to unflattering reviews from critics, the bigger sticking point has been that the film arrived highly-touted as the next “guaranteed” $1 billion comic book smash to rival Marvel’s The Avengers… and instead saw its box office take a historic plunge almost immediately.
Now, a fresh report appears to confirm that the (symbolic) shortfall is now all but certain: Batman V Superman will not join the coveted “Billion Dollar Box-Office Club.”
While The Wrap‘s report is quick to cite noted comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian in pointing out that the film’s current $863.2 million take is “an unqualified box office hit, especially for a March release,” a second industry insider quoted anonymously as a senior industry executive offers that WB is “treading very dangerous waters. I would be nervous as hell.” While and $850 million+ take would be nothing to sneeze at under normal circumstances, The Wrap‘s Meriah Doty lays out of the case for why the studio may be less than thrilled with the results beyond simply not being able to say they equaled (or “defeated”) The Avengers:
“The film’s reported budget was $250 million, not counting an estimated $150 million spent marketing Zack Snyder‘s superhero showdown. By the time you factor in the revenue split with exhibitors and the mere 25 percent take from Chinese box office, industry insiders said that Warner Bros. may not be left with much in the way of profits on the theatrical release.”
The word comes amid ongoing turmoil and frustration for Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe, which has been rocked not only by continued negative criticism of the film from critics, culture commentators, comics professionals and even many fans, but also by high-profile departures and rumors of creative instability on the already-moving projects Dawn of Justice was meant to lay the foundation for: David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was subject to major reshoots, the reason for which is the subject of ongoing speculation. Seth Grahame-Smith made a hasty exit from The Flash, rumors that James Wan would depart the Aquaman movie got so hot he had to issue Tweet-based denials, and rumors continue to swirl that the studio is putting significant pressure on director Zack Snyder over Justice League; which he is still currently directing despite mounting calls for his departure from fans.
While fans counting on Batman V Superman to cement the future of the DC Extended Universe will no doubt be disheartened by this latest round of negative news, “failing” to enter a largely symbolic pantheon of box-office record holders at this level typically means more to the egos of executives than to the nitty-gritty of film financing. While everyone involved would obviously have preferred Dawn of Justice to be a bigger hit, the lack of a $1 billion take isn’t going to stop Wonder Woman (already shooting) or Suicide Squad (mostly completed) from coming out; and while Justice League may well end up deviating from whatever Snyder’s original plans were, it would be fairly unprecedented for a project of that size to stall at this stage. Meanwhile, the studio is likely still confident of a near-surefire hit from Ben Affleck’s solo Batman feature – regardless of how the other films fare.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing in U.S. theaters. Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on June 19, 2020.
Source: The Wrap