In a week (as of this writing), Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will finally hit theaters, culminating a nearly three year journey that began at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, when the project was first announced. As the real launching point for the anticipated DC Extended Universe, it's not an understatement to say there is a considerable amount of pressure riding on the film's success. Warner Bros. feels as if they have a winner, already scheduling a full slate of DC Comics adaptations between now and 2020 (moving on production with Wonder Woman and Justice League Part One), but after the divided response Man of Steel generated, the jury is still out on how the public will respond.
The mixed word-of-mouth for Snyder's Superman reboot contributed to a lower box office haul then expected: $668 million worldwide. Man of Steel proved profitable enough to launch a franchise, but in the age of $1 billion or bust, WB was surely hoping for more. After all, films based on less-recognizable titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool managed to top Man of Steel's totals, so the hope is Batman V Superman will be able to as well. Just how much does Dawn of Justice need to make, though?
According to a report in Variety, Snyder's latest film needs to gross $800 million globally in order to turn a profit. As one might expect, bringing Batman and Superman together on the big screen was a pricey endeavor. The production budget ran as high as $250 million, with marketing costs contributing another $150 million at least. One media analyst told the outlet that anything under a $1 billion box office intake could be considered a disappointment, but fortunately WB has other means of recouping their investment besides ticket sales.
The film is expected to bring in massive revenue via merchandise and licensing partnerships, and the film will also benefit from a substantial TV rights deal once it's done playing in theaters. In addition, the home media release should turn a pretty penny, particularly since it will include an R-rated version of the movie, which is sure to turn some heads and boost sales (if only out of morbid curiosity). With all those other sources of income, Batman V Superman should have no problems getting in the black by the time it's all said and done. However, box office figures will the most public and immediate indicators at audience interest in the continuing adventures of the DCEU.
If the target is anywhere between $800 - $1 billion worldwide, there's little reason to doubt that Dawn of Justice can pass the high end of that spectrum. This is a real cinematic event, the first time two of the greatest superheroes in all of comics appear in the same live-action film. It's also Wonder Woman's movie debut and will feature the beginnings of the new Justice League. Regardless of how comic book fans feel about certain casting decisions or spoiler-filled trailers, there are plenty of selling points available to hook casual audiences. This is something most people have waited their whole lives to see, and it's finally becoming a reality.
Batman V Superman also has an advantage because of when it's hitting theaters. In spring, the marketplace isn't as crowded. Previous DC films like the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel came out in the middle of the far more competitive summer season, and were still financial successes. If the goal is to beat the $1 billion posted by the last two installments of Christopher Nolan's Batman series, Dawn of Justice should be able to do that. It will be the only blockbuster in town for a few weeks (Jungle Book doesn't come out until April 15), so unless My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is in high demand, WB will have a massive hit on their hands - especially if the reviews are mostly positive.
And that's what this boils down to. Much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it's all but a given that Batman V Superman will be lucrative commercially. If the DCEU is to live long and prosper, it needs high marks from critics and fans in regard to quality. With an Oscar-winner in Chris Terrio writing the script, and a talented cast bringing life to some of DC's biggest icons, the hope is that the end result will be something more favorable than its predecessor. It won't be much longer until moviegoers find out for themselves.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19th, 2020.