No Global Aid
It’s not rare for a movie to be a letdown domestically, but ultimately go down as a success thanks to the foreign marketplace. Unfortunately, Justice League is not one of those instances. Because of the astronomical $300 million budget, the film needed to make $600 million worldwide just to break even, and everything after that would be a profit. Time will tell if the movie ends up costing the studio $100 million, but as of this writing, its worldwide haul stands at $570.3 million, which is about $30 million away from that magic number. It’s safe to say this is not the conversation WB wanted to have four weeks into Justice League‘s run.
Justice League is in a tight spot because it has already opened everywhere it was scheduled to play. The film’s last debut was in Lebanon on November 30, so it’s going to have to salvage what it can before bowing out of theaters. One silver lining is that Justice League is the highest-grossing DC film in China with $98.6 million, though that is a minor footnote at this point in time. Overall, it hasn’t impressed, and even when it passes $600 million, whatever profit it turns will be minuscule at best. The fact that it still hasn’t hit that mark through 3+ weeks (with no new wide releases last weekend to stand in its path) is a bad sign, especially considering what’s lingering on the horizon.
There is one last major studio tentpole to lay waste to the box office this year, and that is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, followup to the $2 billion sensation, The Force Awakens. Early projections already have Episode VIII earning more than $200 million domestically in its opening weekend, and that’s before the (presumably good) word-of-mouth starts to spread. Lucasfilm will begin their global domination tour next Wednesday, December 13, meaning Justice League has one week remaining to make any meaningful headway before it’s completely overshadowed by the galaxy far, far away. We do live in the Golden Age of superhero cinema, but Star Wars (especially the Skywalker saga) remains the leader in the clubhouse. Even Wonder Woman 2 knew enough to move far away from 2019’s Episode IX once Lucasfilm slated the sequel trilogy finale for December that year.
Ultimately, WB is going to have to take a loss on this one. As stated earlier, Justice League has an uphill climb to reach the numbers of Man of Steel ($291 million domestically; $668 million worldwide), which would be well short of the studio’s goals for the first live-action Justice League movie. Thankfully, the studio itself can sustain such a blow thanks to Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, IT, and others all doing well this year, but this is nevertheless concerning. The DC Extended Universe was supposed to be WB’s crown jewel akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and instead it faces an uncertain future since their biggest (in terms of scale) project did not land with audiences as intended.
Perhaps the trio of Aquaman, Shazam, and Wonder Woman 2 will be all it takes to reestablish the DCEU as a force, but the filmmakers have their work cut out for them. Justice League left much of Arthur Curry’s mythology on the cutting room floor, making Aquaman arguably the film’s weakest player (hurting interest in that solo film). Shazam is an unknown quantity, hoping to become DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy. Wonder Woman 2 seems like the safest bet for the time being, considering how beloved the first one was. With the dynamic duo of Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot teaming up again, the demand for that one will be high.
WB is going to have to do some serious soul-searching as they look to pick up the pieces and try to save the DCEU. It’s not totally foregone yet, though they will have to work overtime at generating buzz amongst casual viewers. Right now, the DC brand doesn’t have the same kind of appeal as Marvel or Lucasfilm, which have both earned the trust of moviegoers by consistently making quality products and savvy creative decisions. Justice League should have been the rebirth of the DCEU, but now its status is up in the air.
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