Brightburn had a pretty weak opening at the box office, but that doesn't mean it's a commercial failure. Officially announced in 2018, the new film from producer James Gunn looks to put a fresh spin on the superhero genre. It clearly mines inspiration from the classic Superman origin story, only imagining what it would be like if Clark Kent was destined to be evil instead of a savior. Many critics felt it was a suitably creepy genre mashup, but didn't explore its premise as fully as it could have.
Debuting in theaters the same weekend as Disney's Aladdin remake, critically acclaimed indie comedy Booksmart, and going against a slew of high-profile holdovers, nobody expected Brightburn to secure the top spot on the charts. Still, some were probably hoping for a better showing than $7.8 million domestically ($9.5 million over the extended Memorial Day holiday weekend) and a fifth-place finish. But though Brightburn's haul wasn't big, it will still go down as a box office success.
One only has to look at the film's budget in order to see it's already turned a profit. Brightburn cost a minuscule $6 million to make, and it's earned $17.3 million worldwide as of this writing. Going by the general rule of thumb (budget x 2 = break even point), Brightburn has made its money back and will be able to pad its totals over the remainder of its run. Whatever else it makes at this point is gravy; the film is under no pressure to draw in large crowds and definitely appealed to its niche target audience of R-rated horror. Brightburn may have been a bit of a risk, but it paid off.
Brightburn's box office performance demonstrates the advantage of micro budgets, which seems to be a dying breed in Hollywood today. Especially during the summer movie season, the multiplex is crowded with massive tentpoles - all of which probably cost $150 million or more to make - battling each other for supremacy. Sometimes, it's smart to think outside the box and produce a small, counter-programming option. While it does have superhero elements, Brightburn is by no means a typical Marvel or DC film and offered something different for older moviegoers looking for a reprieve from the big, special effects driven blockbusters. It probably won't have the strongest legs or become a crossover hit, but its opening got the job done.
It'll be interesting to see how Brightburn's turnout impacts a possible franchise. Nothing is confirmed yet, but the film did leave open the possibility for a sequel and may even set up an entire shared universe model for the studio to follow. Obviously, Sony was waiting to see how Brightburn did before seriously considering a followup, and now they know they have a formula that works. Again, Brightburn isn't going to become Sony's new cash cow, but it could develop into something that complements their larger franchises if they so choose. Every now and then, small box office totals can be big. It all depends on the project.