When the embargo lifted on early reviews for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice last week, the floodgates opened unleashing what can only be described as an onslaught of negativity and controversy. Somehow, Warner Bros., director Zack Snyder, and the creative team behind the launch of the DC Extended Universe made a feature film more divisive than its predecessor, Man of Steel.
The critical panning combined with erratic box office forecasts and tracking numbers made us pose the question of whether or not the negative reviews would significantly impact the opening weekend and total theatrical run financials for Batman V Superman. Was this movie and its iconic headliners enough to make the introduction of DC Comics' Trinity on the big screen "critic proof" or would word of mouth quickly sink the box office of the release?
Upon close examination of Batman V Superman's impressive opening weekend numbers, it actually might have.
Batman V Superman's actual opening weekend numbers released this morning and were a few million dollars short of the studio's estimates which initially pegged the domestic release at over $170 million for the weekend. Actuals saw BvS earn $166.1 million domestically and $254,000,000 in foreign markets for a grand sum of just over $420 million worldwide - the largest worldwide debut for any superhero movie ever.
That last bit is a little misleading since it opened in more markets day and date than any other superhero film, but an impressive number nonetheless. For some perspective, here are some of the records the Batman V Superman set so far:
- Biggest March debut and biggest pre-summer opening, beating The Hunger Games' $152.5 million
- Second biggest Warner Bros. release ever behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2's $169.2 million
- Warner Bros.' biggest China debut with $57.3 million opening weekend
- 7th biggest domestic debut of all-time
- 4th biggest worldwide debut of all-time
- 3rd biggest IMAX opening of all-time, behind Star Wars 7 and Jurassic World
Financially, Batman V Superman's opening is phenomenal given that its following the mixed reception of Man of Steel, a very problematic second trailer, and doing so on terrible early reviews. But there's one other record that wasn't discussed over the weekend...
Why Warner Bros. Should Worry
The buzz surrounding the release of Dawn of Justice helped propel it into the minds of moviegoers despite its not-for-kids tone and bad reviews, but those reviews and the mixed reaction of fans (we discuss these competing reactions in-depth here) may actually hurt the film. What Warner Bros., analysts, and passionate observers are looking forward to now is how Batman V Superman performs in its second weekend. If there's a massive dropoff, the film may under-perform overall, and that's usually fueled by a negative response.
That effect was potentially already seen over the weekend since Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice actually set a record for the biggest box office dropoff for a superhero film from Friday to Sunday in an opening weekend. Looking at daily numbers for all modern superhero films, Forbes discovered that BvS dropped 58.6% from Friday (which includes Thursday previews) to Sunday.
That's the biggest dropoff for a film in the genre, even topping the pattern of last year's Fantastic Four disaster which comparatively dropped approximately 48% and the previous Easter weekend record holder, Furious 7, which dropped 51% from Friday to Sunday last year. It might be a sign that after the most eager fans saw it on Thursday and Friday, word of mouth didn't carry in more moviegoers.
A similar observation was made for just the Friday to Saturday dropoff as well. BvS dropped 38% from day to day, second only to The Dark Knight Rises' 40% dropoff in the superhero genre.
Why Warner Bros. Shouldn't Worry
The flip side to any potential downward financial trend concerns for Warner Bros. is that they chose a smart release window for their superhero tentpole after first attempting to position it against Captain America: Civil War in May. By moving it up to its March debut this weekend however, the slate is relatively clear going forward in terms of major competitors. No high profile flicks are set to take screens and moviegoing masses away until Disney's The Jungle Book on April 15th and Universal's The Huntsman: Winter's War the following weekend. That leaves next weekend and all the days in between for BvS to capitalize attention. Those films are only tracking to earn a fraction of what Batman V Superman did in its opening as well so there's still potential for a big theatrical run depending on how the next week trends.
Share your predictions on Batman V Superman's total box office haul in the comments! Will it easily break a billion?
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opened March 25, 2016, 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.
- Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) release date: Mar 25, 2016