After Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s record-setting worldwide opening weekend, does Warner Bros. have a serious problem on its hands?

That seems like a contradiction in terms. How could WB have any concerns right now? BvS far exceeded expectations and catapulted to the top of the record book. As per THR, “BvS opened to a record $166.1 million at the North American box office over Easter weekend, the No. 7 opening of all time and the No. 4 opening for a comic book adaptation behind a trio of Marvel titles, not accounting for inflation.” It notched the biggest opening weekend for any movie released in March (ahead of Hunger Games‘ $152m) or over Easter weekend (ahead of Furious 7‘s $147m).

Plus, beginning early last week WB aggressively opened BvS pretty much everywhere in the world. As a result, at this point Myanmarr and Poland are the only two countries remaining on the film’s release schedule, according to IMDB. So the following stats are padded far more than usual since a simultaneous worldwide release on this level that also includes China is incredibly rare, but BvS opened to a massive $254m overseas for a global debut of $420.1 million, the biggest superhero opening of all time and fourth biggest behind Deathly Hallows 2, Jurassic World and The Force Awakens.

Batman-v-SupermanWB’s distribution chief Jeff Goldstein was understandably pleased when speaking to THR, “There is no question this is an extraordinary achievement. Clearly, audiences have embraced it and we are already seeing repeat business.”

Have they really? Have audiences truly embraced BvS? WB was quick to brag yesterday about BvS’s estimated $170.1m domestic opening, but foot traffic was slower on Sunday than expected leading to an actual weekend total of $166.1m. Was that simply due to the unpredictability of the Easter holiday’s impact on entertainment choices? Did WB underestimate how many families would opt to see Zootopia on Sunday instead of BvS? Or is this the beginning of an inevitable decline brought on by toxic word of mouth? After all, Man of Steel suffered a big second-weekend drop in 2013, and it actually received far better reviews. Is BvS in store for a huge slide from this point forward even though it has minimal competition for the next couple of weeks?

man-of-steel-trailer-sliceThere was only a $4m discrepancy between WB’s estimate and the actual total. That’s certainly not unheard of. Sometimes a statistical error is simply a statistical error. However, it’s the type of thing you look at extra closely after BvS just did what it did despite being one of the worst-reviewed major comic book movies of all time.

Those reviews might be giving Ben Affleck an existential crisis, but Goldstein is quick to downplay their significance, telling THR, “[BvS]‘s just fun. Often, there’s a disconnect between critics and audiences.”

True, but is there actually as much of a disconnect between critics and audiences as he’s pretending? BvS is currently rated 29% on RottenTomatoes, and opening night audiences graded it as a “B” in exit polls conducted by CinemaScore, an unusually low grade for a comic book movie. That’s not as low as the C- earned by last year’s Fantastic Four, but it’s on par with how audiences felt about Green Lantern and Catwoman.

There are other sources which support Goldstein’s point about critics vs. audiences, such as BvS‘s 73% “liked it” rating among RottenTomatoes readers or it’s current 7.5/10 grade on IMDB. However, because CinemaScore only conducts its surveys on opening night its grades theoretically capture the sentiment of the hardcore fans as opposed to the more general moviegoer who was actually okay with waiting longer than 24 hours to see the movie in question once it was in theaters. As such, even if an IMDB or RottenTomatoes reader kind of liked BvS the average hardcore fan walking out of the film opening night gave it a grade on par with some of the worst comic book movies in recent history. Will that type of fan be back no matter what out of a lifelong devotion to the involved characters? Or will they now stay away from Justice League: Part 1 as long as it’s being made by the same people who made BvS?

The eye-popping box office totals might be distracting WB from worrying about any of that, which would be understandable. Very few movies have made this much money in their opening weekend despite being so widely disliked by both audiences (or at least opening night audiences) and critics. Of the 36 movies which made at least $100m in their North American opening weekend, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the only one beyond BvS to be graded a “B” or lower on CinemaScore. However, in that specific case critics were far friendlier, granting Crystal Skull a 78% on RottenTomatoes.

So when I look again at the top 36 opening weekends, the only other movies beyond BvS to both be torn apart by critics and leave opening night audiences feeling like there was definitely room for improvement (thus giving a grade below “A” or “A+”) happen to come from the Twilight and Transformers franchises.

14. Twilight: New Moon – $142m

5656-twilight-new-moon-poster

RottenTomatoes: 28% CinemaScore: A-

16. Twilight: Breaking Dawn 1 – $138m

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RottenTomatoes: 24% CinemaScore: B+

29. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – $108.9m

transformers-revenge-of-the-fallen-standee

RottenTomatoes: 19% CinemaScore: B+

36. Transformers: Age of Extinction – $100m

Transformers_Age_of_Extinction_42240

RottenTomatoes: 18% CinemaScore: A-

In any of those cases, did the poor reviews or disappointed opening night audiences ultimately matter?  The two Twilight movies declined 70% in their second weekends, but by the end of their theatrical runs they managed to double their opening weekend totals. Plus, all of the Twilight movies were remarkably front-loaded, regardless of RT or CinemaScore. New Moon‘s director Chris Weitz didn’t return for Twilight: Eclipse, but that was because he was still in post on New Moon when Eclipse went into pre-production. It had nothing to do with New Moon’s box office.

As for the Transformers movies, even though both Shia Labeouf and Michael Bay apologized for Revenge of the Fallen’s many failings, blaming the Writer’s Strike for shortchanging the script, it only suffered a 61% decline in its second weekend. It ultimately tripled its $108m opening weekend total across the rest of its run, becoming the 13th highest grossing film of all time to that point. However, that was the peak position for the franchise. It has declined with each sequel since then, bottoming out with the soft reboot that was Age of Extinction. Even then, Extinction only declined 63% in its second weekend, and ended up with a final domestic tally of $245m.

Batman v Superman LexWhat does this mean for BvS? It’s hard to make an exact comparison. For one thing, the Twilight and Transformers movies obviously are of a different genre than BvS. Plus, Revenge of the Fallen/Age of Extinction (late June) and Dark Moon/Breaking Dawn Part 1 (mid-November) came out at very different times of the year than BvS. Also, the appeal of a Transformers/Twilight movie just doesn’t compare to BvS‘s promise of a cinematic fight which has been 75+ years in the making. Given those decades of built-up awareness of Superman and Batman, there’s a far higher likelihood of fans feeling compelled to see BvS this weekend despite knowing they probably wouldn’t like it than there ever was with Twilight or Transformers. That might lead to a bigger than usual post-opening weekend drop.

Then again, this might all mean Zack Snyder is officially the new Michael Bay, and the DC movies under his watch will continue to confound critics and hardcore comic book fans while still managing to make stupid amounts of money. The obvious wild cards are David Ayer’s Suicide Squad and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. They might suffer from their association with BvS, or they might re-freshen the brand by presenting a tone and visual style which stands completely separate from the Snyder-ized BvS .

Should WB be worried? Pre-release projections peg the studio as needing to hit $1.15 billion in worldwide gross to equal the profit it saw from Man of Steel‘s $668m worldwide gross. That’s because WB went a little crazy with the money it committed to BvS. For instance, beyond the film’s rumored $325m budget ($250m after tax credits) WB devoted an additional $160m (at minimum) to marketing, spending more on U.S. TV ads than any film in history, besting even The Force Awakens. So they have a lot of demands which need to be met. They seem to be busy convincing themselves that average viewers greatly enjoyed BvS, and the critics and malcontents just don’t get it. Maybe they’re right. We’ll see how BvS holds up in the coming weeks.

The bigger question: For those of us who didn’t like BvS, exactly how worried should we be? Very. Zack Snyder may have just turned the DC Cinematic Universe into the new Transformers.

Here’s the full list of the top 36 opening weekends along with their RT scores and CinemaScore grades:

Top Opening Weekends (North America/Not Adjusted for Inflation)

Star_Wars1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $247m

  • RottenTomatoes: 92%
  • CinemaScore: A

2. Jurassic World – $208m

  • RottenTomatoes: 72%
  • CinemaScore: A

3. The Avengers – $207m

  • RottenTomatoes: 92%
  • CinemaScore: A+

4. Age of Ultron – $191m

  • RottenTomatoes: 75%
  • CinemaScore: A

5. Iron Man 3 – $174m

  • RottenTomatoes: 79%
  • CinemaScore: A

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – $169m

  • RottenTomatoes: 96%
  • CinemaScore: A

7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – $166m

  • RottenTomatoes: 29%
  • CinemaScore: B

8. The Dark Knight Rises – $160m

  • RottenTomatoes: 87%
  • CinemaScore: A

9. The Dark Knight – $158.4m

  • RottenTomatoes: 94%
  • CinemaScore: A

10. Hunger Games: Catching Fire – $158m

  • RottenTomatoes: 89%
  • CinemaScore: A

11. Hunger Games – $152m

  • RottenTomatoes: 84%
  • CinemaScore: A

12. Spider-Man 3 – $151m

  • RottenTomatoes: 63%
  • CinemaScore: B+

13. Furious 7 – $147m

  • RottenTomatoes: 81%
  • CinemaScore: A

14. Twilight: New Moon – $142m

  • RottenTomatoes: 28%
  • CinemaScore: A-

15. Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 – $141m

  • RottenTomatoes: 49%
  • CinemaScore: A

16. Twilight: Breaking Dawn 1 – $138m

  • RottenTomatoes: 24%
  • CinemaScore: B+

17. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $135m

  • RottenTomatoes: 54%
  • CinemaScore: A-

18. Deadpool – $132m

  • RottenTomatoes: 84%
  • CinemaScore: A

19. Iron Man 2 – $128m

  • RottenTomatoes: 72%
  • CinemaScore: A

20. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – $125m

  • RottenTomatoes: 78%
  • CinemaScore: A

21. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – $121.8m

  • RottenTomatoes: 65%
  • CinemaScore: A-

22. Shrek the Third – $121.6m

  • RottenTomatoes: 40%
  • CinemaScore: B+

23. Man of Steel – $116.6m

  • RottenTomatoes: 56%
  • CinemaScore: A-

24. Alice in Wonderland – $116.1m

  • RottenTomatoes: 52%
  • CinemaScore: A-

25. Minions – $115m

  • RottenTomatoes: 55%
  • CinemaScore: A

26. Spider-Man – $114.8m

  • RottenTomatoes: 89%
  • CinemaScore: A-

27. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – $114.7m

  • RottenTomatoes: 45%
  • CinemaScore: A-

28. Toy Story 3 – $110m

  • RottenTomatoes: 99%
  • CinemaScore: A

29. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – $108.9m

  • RottenTomatoes: 19%
  • CinemaScore: B+

30. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – $108.4m

  • RottenTomatoes: 79%
  • CinemaScore: A-

31. Shrek 2 – $108m

  • RottenTomatoes: 88%
  • CinemaScore: A

32. X-Men: The Last Stand – $102.7m

  • RottenTomatoes: 58%
  • CinemaScore: A-

33. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – $102.68m

  • RottenTomatoes: 88%
  • CinemaScore: A

34. Mockingjay – Part 2 – $102.66m

  • RottenTomatoes: 70%
  • CinemaScore: A-

35. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – $100.7m

  • RottenTomatoes: 78%
  • CinemaScore: B

36. Transformers: Age of Extinction – $100m

  • RottenTomatoes: 18%
  • CinemaScore: A-
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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

3 Comments

  1. I will start to worry about this when I see next weeks numbers. Concerning the audience score, well, it has constantly fallen. The Hardcore fans have fought valiantly against it, but the fact that it is now down at 72% even though it started out fairly high says a lot. That is less than Man of Steel has. I therefore don’t see a really big dissonance between critics and audience. The audience is just more reluctant to go too low, so they rate slightly over what would be considered “rotten” by the website, while the critics tend to rate just into the “rotten” zone.

    The whole thing was well played by Warner bros. They most likely knew they had a turd, otherwise they wouldn’t have ensured that they would rake in as much money as possible at once. And they successfully convince the audience that this a “no-miss event movie”. But I think in the next weeks, a lot of people will gladly miss out on it nevertheless.

    Reply

  2. […] injustice cannot stand. They must be stopped. Superhero movies are many things, but they’ve been never been Transformers. That’s what Batman v Superman is, and what the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe now risks […]

    Reply

  3. […] As I explained last week, prior to BvS no movie made as much in its opening weekend despite being so disliked since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Twilight: New Moon. Now, no major comic book movie had dropped as much in its second weekend since Origins: Wolverine. That’s not good company for BvS to be in. […]

    Reply

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