Ever since its opening weekend – it’s opening day, really – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has pulled an Ike from South Park and plunged straight down in an epic impression of David Caruso’s career. It dropped another 61% domestically and 55% internationally this weekend. Of course, even with those drops it’s up to $311m domestically and $827m worldwide, good enough to respectively rank 13th and 7th all-time among all comic book movies. Now fans and industry insiders alike are watching on with morbid curiosity. As Scott Mendelson recently put it, “We’ve never seen a franchise that entered orbit after blowing the take-off.” Of course, Warner Bros. doesn’t exactly see it that way, understandably opting to instead emphasize the film’s climb up the record charts instead of its astounding weekly declines at the box office.
They have no choice. They have gone so all-in with their DC movies they must simply move forward, publicly pretending everything is perfectly fine. As I covered in depth last week [here’s the link], various financial analysts believe WB will ultimately realize a modest return on investment from BvS. The profit won’t be nearly as high as they wanted, but it will still be there.
Of course, that’s been true of several other superhero movies (e.g., X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) which were so disliked we think of them as flops even though they were financial successes, if sometimes just because of merchandising and toy sales (e.g., Batman and Robin). However, those all ended their respective franchises, and Batman v Superman is actually declining on a weekly basis faster than any of them! Typically, this is when a studio would pull back and any promised sequels would somehow never leave development hell.
Last week, I put together a list of the weekly declines for the only 9 superhero movies of the past 20 years to have nosedived more than 65% in their second weekends. I’ve updated it below to reflect BvS‘s 4th weekend drop.
|Film||Opening Weekend||2nd Weekend||3rd Weekend||4th Weekend||5th Weekend|
|Hulk (2003)||$62.1m||▼ 69.7%||▼ 56.3%||▼ 55.4%||▼ 58.0%|
|Batman v Superman (2016)||$166m||▼ 69.1%||▼ 54.5%||▼ 61%||▼???|
|Elektra (2016)||$12.8m||▼ 69.0%||▼ 64.4%||▼ 70.7%||▼69.9|
|Origins: Wolverine (2008)||$85m||▼ 69.0%||▼ 44.3%||▼ 45.1%||▼ 52.0%|
|Fantastic Four (2015)||$25.6m||▼ 68.2%||▼ 54.3%||▼ 52.3%||▼ 38.2%|
|Kick-Ass 2 (2013)||$13.3m||▼ 67.2%||▼ 55.4%||▼ 67.4%||▼ 60.6%|
|X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)||$102.7m||▼ 66.9%||▼ 52.7%||▼ 51.4%||▼ 38.1%|
|Green Lantern (2011)||$53.1m||▼ 66.1%||▼ 63.6%||▼ 52%||▼56.8%|
|Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)||$58m||▼ 65.5%||▼ 54.3%||▼ 53.6%||▼ 61.5%|
So BvS‘s -61% 4th weekend decline is behind only Elektra‘s -70.7% and Kick-Ass 2’s -67.4%, and its fifth weekend decline will probably be in the 50-60% territory. It’s still looking like it will ultimately beat Spider-Man 3’s $336m domestic total but fall short of Deadpool‘s $358m, and probably fail to crack $1 billion worldwide.
Ignores those totals. What really stands out here is that BvS will have some of the all-time worst legs of any superhero movie of the modern era (translation: from the 2000 X-Men up to the present). You measure that by calculating the multiplier. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a multiplier is “a film’s total box office divided by its opening weekend box office. Another measure of the film’s word-of-mouth but with a much wider range of possibilities.” Right now, BvS‘s multiplier is 1.87, but it’s projected to end in the 1.95-2.05 territory. Here’s how that will measure up next to the superhero movies with the worst multipliers:
- Watchmen – 1.94x
- Elektra – 1.96x
- Origins: Wolverine – 2.11x
- Hulk – 2.12x
- Fantastic Four (2015) – 2.18x
- Green Lantern – 2.19x
- Amazing Spider-Man 2 – 2.21x
- Spider-Man 3 – 2.22x
So, yeah, not good. Batman v Superman continues to perform exactly like a movie which would end a franchise or fail to earn a sequel. In a normal situation, WB would be making drastic changes and probably salting the Earth and starting over, but this isn’t a normal situation. Before BvS even came out, they already had two other DC movies in the can (Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad), and too many millions sunk into Justice League pre-production to turn back. This now has the appearance of a sinking ship which was simply too heavy to make a necessary course-correction, but because those box office totals still look nice they might be fooling themselves into thinking everything’s fine. They’re trying to launch their DC universe into orbit even though they’ve clearly blown the take-off.
But, hey, everyone at least kind of likes Ben Affleck as Batman, and he sure looks to have a larger role in Suicide Squad than we ever realized. Oh, Suicide Squad, you neon-stained mystery of a movie. I used to say this about Batman v Superman, and it obviously didn’t help. However, now I’ll say it of Suicide Squad: Please, please, please don’t suck. It’s fun and all to observe Batman v Superman‘s historical box office futility, but it’s a lot more fun to see an actually good movie which then makes a justifiably large amount of money. Please be that movie, Suicide Squad.