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What Man of Steel’s Super Box Office Means: Franchise Revived, Sequel Greenlit, Justice League Alive

Man of Steel?  More like Man of Gold!  Am I right?  But, no, seriously people, Man of Steel just made a lot of money.  However, being a modern film lover means not taking the studios at their word when they tout record-breaking openings.  After all, some of the box office records films break and studios happily report are so comically specific (e.g., highest August opening weekend for women aged 18-34) that the only accepted response is a thoroughly earned rolling of the eyes.  Of course, there are also times when the box office numbers are legitimately impressive, and there is often no better indication of the likelihood of a sequel than box office gross.   So, where in this divide does Man of Steel fall?

How Much Money Did Man of Steel Make?
ManofSteelAmyAdams
Here is Amy Adams laughing incredulously after Henry Cavill told her how much money the movie made in a mere 3 days.  She thought he was joking.

Domestically, Man of Steel took in an estimated $12 million from Thursday preview screenings and $116.7 million between Friday and Sunday for a combined total of $128.7 million.  The film also opened in most worldwide territories this past weekend as well, and brought in a foreign gross of $71.6 million.  This combines for a worldwide gross of $200.3 million after just 3 full days for a film whose production budget is reported as being around $225 million.

This is the second highest domestic opening for a film this year, second to Iron Man 3′s $175 million, and is the 15th all-time highest opening weekend for any film (although only 26th if you adjust for inflation).

How Does This Compare to Superman Returns?
You will believe Superman can be shived on a Kryptonite island.
Tell the people just how much more Man of Steel made than me?  Fine, just stick the dagger back in and twist it around why don’t you.

The previous installment in the franchise, the much-maligned Superman Returns, made a comparatively meager $52 million in its opening weekend in late June of 2006.  However, it’s even worse than that.  From BoxOfficeMojo:

[Superman Returns] opened on a Wednesday and earned $84.6 million through its first five days. Adjusting for ticket price inflation, that would come out to $102.5 million, or noticeably lower than Man of Steel‘s $128 million haul so far.

So, even after adjusting for inflation and giving it two extra days of box office figures Superman Returns still fails to best Man of Steel.  And for the “holy shit, are you kidding me?” moment of this article – Superman Returns reportedly ended up with a production budget of $277 million.  Check out BoxOfficeMojo for a side-by-side comparison of the two films.

In fact, the Superman film franchise is now in far better financial shape than it possibly ever has been.  No matter if you adjust for inflation or just look at total numbers of tickets sold Man of Steel’s opening thoroughly trounces any prior film in the Superman franchise.  In actual numbers, it looks set to become the highest grossing film in franchise history, although if you adjust for inflation the original 1978 Superman made $455.5 domestically which seems like a feat Man of Steel will fail to accomplish.

How Well Did It Do in 3D — aka Is 3D Dead Yet?

On the domestic front, Man of Steel benefited from the 3D bump – 41% of all ticket sales coming from 3D showings – but like most 2013 films that bump was nowhere near as pronounced as in prior years.  Basically, the box office for Man of Steel was a 60/40 divide between 2D showings and 3D showings whereas in the past it was more common for the 60/40 divide to favor 3D over 2D.  For example, Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After each owed around 60% of their opening to 3D showings, and Alice in Wonderland owed a stunning 70% of its opening gross to 3D.

It is a bit more difficult to tease out the influence of inflated IMAX prices since almost all IMAX screenings are in 3D and thus included in the 3D figures, but 12% of people who saw Man of Steel this past weekend viewed it on a IMAX screen.

What’s All This Nonsense About Man of Steel Scoring the Biggest June Opening Weekend Ever?
toystory3
In this picture from Toy Story 3, only Woody seems to realize just how thoroughly Man of Steel crushed their record for biggest June opening ever.

In actual (non-adjusted) figures, Man of Steel now holds the record for highest opening for a film released in June in film history.  The previous record holder had been 2010’s Toy Story 3, which just like Man of Steel also featured midnight screenings in advance of a Fri-Sun weekend and played on 3D IMAX screens.  Toy Story 3 raked in $4 million from midnight showings on the way to a total Friday to Sunday opening weekend of $110.3 million.  This is in comparison to Man of Steel‘s higher Friday to Sunday total ($116.7 million) and combined total after factoring in Thursday night preview showings ($128.7 million).

If you guessed that things might look a little different after adjusting for inflation you’d be right.  However, it’s not actually Man of Steel that suffers after adjustment but Toy Story 3, probably due to their respective 3D/2D splits.  So, after you adjust all June opening figures to reflect the average 2013 ticket price thus negating any benefit alotted to Man of Steel the list of biggest opening weekends for June looks like this:

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – $119.7 million (came out in 2004)/15.1 million tickets sold
  2. Man of Steel – $116.7 million (not counting the Thursday previews)/14.7 million tickets sold
  3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – $115.9 million (came out in 2009)/14.6 million tickets sold
  4. Toy Story 3 – $111.1 million/13.9 million tickets sold
What Does This Mean for the Chances of Man of Steel 2: The Legend of Jor-El’s Gold or Man of Steel 2: Kryptonian Boogaloo

The Monday before Man of Steel came out, Deadline exclusively reported it had heard that Warner Bros. had already greenlit a Man of Steel 2 which would see Snyder return as director and David S. Goyer as screenwriter.  This decision seems to have been justified by the opening weekend box office, and they won’t go back on it unless there is a truly remarkable box office collapse.  This means there will almost certainly be a second cinematic opportunity to ogle instant sex-symbol and new Superman Henry Cavill.  Although critics haven’t been crazy about the movie (nor were we – check out our review here) the CinemaScore grade of A- indicates a strong word of mouth and rather low likelihood of the film drastically dropping in subsequent weeks.

What Does This Mean for the Justice League?
2343760-justice_league_movie_poster_by_daniel_morpheus_d4ga8dj
A fan-made Justice League movie poster with adorably hopeful casting suggestions for each character.  Photo credit: daniel-morpheus.deviantart.com

In recent history, DC has failed to launch franchises or make Marvel-like box office money on anything not directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as the Batman.  However, that trilogy is over, and the Man of Steel creative team are adamant their film is meant to exist in a different cinematic universe.   So, all future DC properties are mean to spring from the universe established in Man of Steel, making Superman DC’s Iron Man as far as the films go.

What does this mean for that Justice League film they were so excited about months back? [read DenOfGeek’s just-published rundown of everything we know about the Justice League film so far].  Well, the script for the previously discussed Justice League film in which all members other than Superman would be introduced for the first time has been abandoned.  DC can mimic Marvel completely and attempt to launch several other characters via standalone films set in the same universe as Man of Steel, or they can just Iron Man 2 it and introduced several heroes as supporting characters in a Man of Steel sequel which would be followed by a Justice League movie.  Or they could stupidly forge ahead and try to get a Justice League move out there in 2015, bypassing a sequel to Man of Steel entirely. What seems certain is that Man of Steel has given Warner Bros. and DC plenty of options, and the abandoned Justice League film is most certainly alive again.  And love them or hate them, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer ain’t going away.

Every time you leave a comment an internet writer gets his validation wings.  You wouldn’t deny me my wings – would you?  No, seriously, this article is over.  If you want to continue the conversation take to the comments section.

All numbers in this article come from BoxOfficeMojo (go here for their Man of Steel page), and reflect their latest figures at the time of this writing.  

Box Office Update: So, what kind of drop at the box office is Man of Steel experiencing now that the weekend is over?  Domestically, it dropped 65.3% from Sunday’s $36.29 million to Monday’s $12.58 million but stayed pretty much steady on Tuesday at $11.51 million.  As a point of comparison, Iron Man 3 dropped 73.8% from its first domestic Sunday to Monday whereas Marvel’s The Avengers experienced a  66.9% drop.  Of course, both of those films opened to a much bigger opening weekend.  Man of Steel added an additional $9 million on Wednesday and $7 million on Thursday, bringing its estimated domestic total to $168.79 million.  For a breakdown of how much Man of Steel made in its second weekend, check out our other article on the topic.

henry-cavill-superman-shirtless-2
It’s just such a shame that Henry Cavill is so unnattractive and super flabby [Sarcasm confirmed].

5 comments

  1. Good points. I think it was inevitable that a Man of Steel sequel was coming, even if this one hadn’t hit it out of the park. I think it would have taken a serious bomb at the box office for them to abandon Goyer/Nolan. It seems unlikely that a Justice League movie will precede Man of Steel 2, if only because the script is a nightmare and trying to nail down a director hasn’t been easy. If DC is smart, they’ll release a few more superhero movies like Wonder Woman or a Green Lantern reboot. I’m really intrigued to see what exactly they will do.

    1. After Superman Returns pulled down nearly $400 million in 2006 but cost so much that this wasn’t enough to get a sequel greenlit, I wasn’t so sure about Man of Steel’s chances before this past weekend. Now, a sequel seems like a guarantee unless the bottom completely falls out of the market. The crazy thing, though, is that the Wall Street Journal reported that Warner Bros. might be trying to lock in a 2014 release date for a Man of Steel sequel (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323836504578549641408007794.html). That some next-level crazy right there. Even if the WSJ’s unnamed source is right, I just don’t see that happening.

      Also from the WSJ, “‘It’s more than just a franchise for us, it really opens up the door to do combinations of the DC Comics characters,’ said Dan Fellman, Warner’s president of domestic distribution. ‘We can build them up like Marvel did and benefit from the history of DC.'”

      Now, that is the person to listen to. They need to build the characters up over a couple of films before Justice League ever happens.

      Basically, WB/DC’s condundrum is this: the best way to make a Justice League movie work is to establish several of the characters in their own films first, but if those movies fail – like the first Green Lantern did – then that potentially kills the Justice League project. However, if you just introduce Martian Manhunter, Flash, Wonder Woman, etc. in a Justice League film but the film fails then those new characters introduced in it are dead in the water as far marketable film properties.

      If WB can be patient, they should see what they can do with some standalone movies and push the Justice League back a couple of years from its previously announced 2015 release. If they can’t be patient, I would imagine they might compromise and give us a couple of new heroes as side characters in Man of Steel 2. More than anything else, though, I am curious if they can really pull off a good/interesting Wonder Woman or Flash or whoever else film.

      1. Yeah, I think the earliest that we’ll be seeing Man of Steel 2 is 2016. Unless DC is really trying to ruin the chances of the sequel being as good as this one, I think it’s wishful thinking to say that another Man of Steel will be out in 2015, and according to screenrant.com, Snyder has denied that any such schedule exists.

        Latino Review’s El Mayimbe supposedly got a scoop earlier this year that Nolan would be shepherding the DC universe, though not directing per se any of the films. I think that would be awesome, but I’m still yet to hear if this actually holds water. Whatever WB/DC does, I hope that they will take their time and make their universe amazing, because it certainly has the potential and I think it’s a shame that until now, Marvel has been blowing DC out of the water left and right with their movies.

  2. I just finished listening to the Empire Film podcast spoiler special for Man of Steel, and during their interview with David S. Goyer he indicated a preference for a Marvel-like build toward Justice League while also acknowledging he thinks WB’s preference might be to introduce all characters in a JL film and build out from there. However, I think Goyer and Snyder might have a bit more influence on WB’s decision after how well Man of Steel is doing. Plus, Goyer’s contract as screenwriter is apparently for Man of Steel, its sequel, and Justice League.

    The Christopher Nolan godfather thing has never been made official, as far as I know. For example, Joss Whedon is a consultant on all Marvel films now, overseeing that particular cinematic universe, but that’s actually been formalized, acknowledged, and even discussed openly by Whedon and others. Of course, that didn’t happen until after The Avengers hit. We heard the Latino Review report back in March about Nolan being DC’s Whedon, but I’ve never seen it confirmed anywhere. If it ever becomes a formalized reality, now – after Man of Steel – would probably be that time.

    It should be fun to see how this all plays out. However, I don’t particularly trust WB to pull this off if Nolan isn’t involved, and even if he is Aquaman and Wonder Woman and Hawkwoman and Hawkman and other JLA members are going to be difficult to pull off on screen. For Marvel, only Thor really forced them to cinematically explain a universe outside of Earth whereas a lot of your classic JLA members originate from off Earth (or in Aquaman’s case at the bottom of Earth’s oceans). Of course, Marvel made Thor work be setting most of it on Earth and humbling him, and the sequel will be a real test for that particular franchise since almost all of it looks to take place in realsm other than Earth. You can copy that formula with a Wonder Woman or something, I guess, but for all of them?

    And how long is it before the comic book movie bubble bursts, if it ever does? If it does, will WB have their crap together by then, or will their mismanagement have some part in the bubble bursting? Again, should be interesting to find out.

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