Deadpool is thus far the unexpected box-office and critical sensation of 2016. Given Fox’s absolutely massive marketing push combined with the extended 4-day Valentine’s/Presidents Day weekend, it was thought that the film would make money – but no one was anticipated that it would blow past Fifty Shades of Gray to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history, to say nothing of it opening with numbers comparable to the more mainstream-friendly Marvel Cinematic Universe films (and well ahead of the other X-Men movies). At this point, it would almost feel like showing off in Fox were to start bragging about how it also did much better than expected with critics.
But now, with the raunchy superhero send-up showing few signs of slowing down, Deadpool’s impact is beginning to be felt beyond the Marvel and Mutant franchises. Some fans and analysts are wondering if the next big “traditional” superhero adventure, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, could fall short of The Merc With a Mouth at the box-office.
Granted, Deadpool is already a massive “winner” in the area Hollywood mainly cares about: Profit. While its $153 million+ opening would indeed be impressive for almost any movie with the words “Star Wars” or “Avengers” in the title, since Deadpool was made for a relatively low $68 million budget it will turn a net profit for the studio much more quickly than other more expensive films – including those with bigger openings. But however much studio bosses focus on the bottom line, in an industry where accounting is as “creative” as it is in the movie business, the appearance of success can matter almost more than actually succeeding – and chatter has been popping up all weekend that other studios and producers are nervous about what the popular and media perception will be if they’re supposedly more “mainstream”-friendly superhero films end up with smaller opening weekends than Fox’s cheaper, sillier R-rated takeoff on the genre.
That would include Fox itself, which ironically now has to wonder whether their mega-expensive “normal” Marvel Mutant movie, X-Men: Apocalypse, will be judged a “disappointment” if it earns less than a grownups-only spinoff they may end up having spent three times less to make. But more immediately (as in, about a month from now) there’s the case of Batman V Superman, a $200 million+ epic featuring arguably the three most well-known superheroes ever created… and currently tracking to open not very much higher than Deadpool in its first weekend – leading some to wonder what the fallout will be at Warner Bros if the film actually earns less than Wade Wilson’s inaugural fourth wall-breaking bow.
When questioned by film site The Omlette, Deadpool director Tim Miller dismissed the idea of his film and Dawn of Justice as rivals; explaining that this was why Deadpool wasn’t lobbing any of his trademark zingers at The Distinguished Competition:
“We have several jokes about superheroes, but I do not want to make any specific joke with this film. It would be strange to make a joke with a film not premiered yet. And besides, I like what Zack [Snyder] does, like your sense of epic. I think it was this epic bid that led me to read comics before anything else. I’m more of a fan of this heroic side that the comedy itself, although I like the mix that exists in Deadpool ” [translated]
But while Warner Bros is publicly confident about Batman V Superman’s box-office prospects, last week a blockbuster report from HitFix featured longtime critic and industry analyst Drew McWeeny claiming that the studio is “worried” about the film’s potential performance based on early test-screenings, and that the film coming in under expectations could imperil the planned DC Cinematic Universe that was expected to spin off from it – as least as it’s been currently planned. While early reports from test-screenings have been largely positive, it has also been widely suggested that Warners’ is worried that the finished film (which has reportedly undergone significant rewrites and reshoots, possibly including the addition of an entirely new villain) may be “too dark” or take itself too seriously to compete with the more broadly-appealing films being produced by rival Marvel Studios.
On the other hand, it remains unclear what kind of “legs” Deadpool will actually have at the worldwide box-office. While adaptations of cult-fave material often have oversized, front-loaded debuts, they just as often fall quickly afterwards if the broader audience that mainly wanted to see “what the big deal was” turns out to have mainly shown up for the opening rather than spreading out over several weeks. For example, last year’s Valentine’s Day phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Gray, dropped spectacularly after a record-setting opening weekend; and while Deadpool’s positive word of mouth and limited competition going forward hold a high probability of sustained success, exactly how sustained a hit the film will be is still very much an open question. And whichever film ends up in the other’s shadow, it’s plausible that both could easily be exceeded in short order by Captain America: Civil War, which some are expecting to perform more like an Avengers movie than a “solo” Marvel feature at the box-office.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is currently tracking for a $154-$160 million (projected) opening weekend box-office versus Deadpool’s $153 million+. Check back with Screen Rant for more coverage of these and other blockbuster features.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, which is followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.