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Comparing Batman v Superman’s Box Office Decline to the Dark Knight Trilogy & Marvel Cinematic Universe

After grossing an additional $5.5m in North America this weekend, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now up to $319.5m domestic, $532.1m international and $851.6m worldwide off of a $250m production budget and who the heck knows how much on marketing. That makes it the 11th all-time highest-grossing superhero movie in North America, and 7th highest worldwide, without adjusting for inflation.

There are those who would look at the those box office totals and tell you the “results are fine; not a runaway success, not a disaster, just fine.” Heck, I more or less spun that same story a couple of weeks ago, based on the projections that BvS will ultimately turn a modest profit. Warner Bros. was more than happy to brag about the film crossing $800m worldwide while they were CinemaCon two weeks ago.

But let’s get real. Batman v Superman’s box office is the most perplexing mess we’ve arguably ever seen from a movie before. As I have said multiple times by now, no superhero movie has ever made this much despite falling so fast after its opening weekend. WB is launching its entire cinematic universe off of a movie which is declining at a rate exclusively on par with superhero movies which were either franchise-killers or non-starters.

Hold on, though. Is that actually a faulty comparison? Is there something to the emerging argument that because BvS‘s opening weekend was so large its subsequent drop-offs are acceptable, if not entirely expected? And how exactly does this compare to The Dark Knight Trilogy and Marvel Cinematic Universe?

The Weekend Drops

This chart is limited to only those superhero movies which declined by at least 65% in their second weekend:

Film 2nd Weekend 3rd Weekend 4th Weekend 5th Weekend 6th Weekend
Hulk (2003) ▼ 69.7% ▼ 56.3% ▼ 55.4% ▼ 58.0% ▼66.4%
Batman v Superman (2016) 69.1% 54.5%
61% 38.6% ???
Elektra (2016) 69.0% 64.4% ▼ 70.7% ▼ 69.9% 51.6
Origins: Wolverine (2008) ▼ 69.0% ▼ 44.3% ▼ 45.1% ▼ 52.0% ▼ 50.2%
Fantastic Four (2015) ▼ 68.2% ▼ 54.3% ▼ 52.3% ▼ 38.2% ▼ 59.5%
Kick-Ass 2 (2013) 67.2% ▼ 55.4% 67.4% 60.6% 59.9%
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) ▼ 66.9% ▼ 52.7% ▼ 51.4% ▼ 38.1% ▼ 54.4%
Green Lantern (2011) ▼ 66.1% ▼ 63.6% ▼ 52% ▼ 56.8% ▼71.9%
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) ▼ 65.5% ▼ 54.3% ▼ 53.6% ▼ 61.5% ▼ 54.0%

BvS finally managed a respectable drop in its fifth weekend, but, then again, so did Fantastic Four. This drop still corresponded with BvS leaving the box office top 5 for the first time. It has reached the point in its release cycle where if it was actually well-liked it could keep making significant money for several more weeks (just look at Zootopia), but that is probably not in the cards for BvS.

The Fanboy/Fangirl Argument

“We’re not concerned with the drop,” has been Warners domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein’s stance on the film’s steady decline. “We’re most focused on where we are in total. And our global number is huge.”

Elsewhere, Goldstein and other box office analysts have hinted they believe BvS has fallen victim to extreme fanboy/fangirl inflation, i.e., the insane demand among hardcore comic fans to see Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on screen together for the first time led to a mad rush in that opening weekend which could not be maintained in the subsequent weekends. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is pointed to as an example of another film which, due to the hype surroundings its release, enjoyed a huge opening followed by a nearly 70% decline in its second weekend. If that was an acceptable drop since the final Harry Potter movie was obviously a monumental cultural event why should BvS be any different?

Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows-Part-2-Movie-PosterThat’s where “multiplier” comes in. It’s a popular measurement of word of mouth, arrived at by dividing “a film’s total box office by its opening weekend box office.” The resulting “multiplier” usually ranges from 2.0 (bad/average world-of-mouth) to 6.0 (people practically wanted to marry your movie). Of course, it’s not a perfect measurement. The goal is to cut through the hype and quantify whether or not a film maintained its appeal past its pre-launch marketing campaign, but some film openings are so huge that it’s far easier for a smaller project to post a more impressive multiplier.

Right now, BvS‘s multiplier is 1.92x, and if it ends its run with $336m (tying Spider-Man 3) its multiplier will be 2.0. Let’s look at how that currently stacks up next to other superhero movies:

The All-Time Worst Multipliers for Superhero Movies

Film Opening Weekend Total Domestic Gross Multiplier
Batman v Superman (2016) $166m $319m (for now)
Watchmen (2016)  $55.2m $107.5m
Elektra (2016) $12.8m $24.9m 1.96x
Origins: Wolverine (2008) $85m $179.8m 2.11x
Hulk (2003) $62.1m $132.1m 2.12x
Fantastic Four (2015) $25.6m $56.1m 2.18x
Green Lantern (2011) $53.1m $116.6m 2.19x
Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2011) $91.6m $202.8m 2.21x
Spider-Man 3 (2007) $151.1m $336.5m 2.22x

Other than Watchmen, all of the above movies were meant to have direct sequels which obviously never arrived, but there will be two spin-off DC movies (Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman) before BvS‘s direct sequel. That’s what sets it apart from the rest, even though it currently has the worst multiplier. For example, it’s not like Sony delivered a kickass Sinister Six movie just a couple of months after audiences were less than enthusiastic about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 .

How That Compares to The Dark Knight Trilogy & Man of Steel

Film Opening Weekend Final Domestic Gross Multiplier
Batman v Superman (2016) $166m $319m 1.92x
Man of Steel (2013)  $116.6m $291m
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) $160.8m $448.1m 2.78x
The Dark Knight (2008) $158.4m $534.8m 3.37x
Batman Begins (2005) $48.7m $206.8m 4.24x

How That Compares to The Marvel Cinematic Universe


Opening Weekend

Final Domestic Gross


Batman v Superman (2016)




Iron Man 3 (2013)




Thor: The Dark World (2013)




Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)




Iron Man 2 (2012)




The Incredible Hulk (2008)




Captain America: First Avenger (2011)




Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)




Thor (2011)




Avengers (2012)




Ant-Man (2015)




Iron Man (2008)




Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)




This chart is a good example of the imperfect nature of the multiplier. You could make convincing arguments that Guardians, Iron Man and Avengers were the most warmly received of all the MCU movies which is why their multipliers were so high, but it’d be dang difficult to lump Ant-Man in with the rest of them as being somehow equally popular.

ml-short-729-ironman-20130425103759616796-620x349On the opposite end, Iron Man 3 having the lowest multiplier doesn’t automatically anoint it a product of pure hype, although it acknowledges how big of a role hype played in that opening weekend (remember Iron Man 3 was the first Marvel movie after The Avengers).

Maybe the best comparison really is to simply look at other big movies, regardless of genre:

How It Compares to the Other Members of the $150m Club (Every Movie to Have an Opening Weekend at or North of $150m)


Opening Weekend

Total Domestic Gross


Batman v Superman (2016)




Spider-Man 3 (2007)




The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)




Iron Man 3 (2013)




Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)




Hunger Games (2012)




Catching Fire (2013)




The Dark Knight Rises (2012)




The Avengers (2012)




Jurassic World (2015)




The Dark Knight (2008)




The Force Awakens (2015)




Even when isolated to a comparison to other films in its same tax bracket, so to speak, BvS is still shaping up as the most front-loaded blockbuster of our times, indicating that despite what WB wants to believe there is more than just the fanboy/fangirl effect at play here.


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