Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an enigma of a movie. It prominently features two of DC’s most iconic heroes in a movie maligned by critics. Despite those poor reviews though, it still made a killing with the fourth largest opening weekend at the box office of all time. Now a week later, Batman v Superman has set another box office record, albeit one it probably doesn’t want. The film’s $424 million opening couldn’t follow the act in Week 2, falling off that total at the global box office by a whopping 69.1%. That number represents the fourth largest drop-off of all time, and it speaks volumes to the watchability of DC’s largely humorless approach to superheroes.
The understand the significance of all this, we first need to put that 69.1% number in context. It’s not out of the ordinary for big-ticket blockbusters to fall off a cliff in the second week: Avengers: Age of Ultron saw a 58% dive in Week 2, while Jurassic World boasted its own 49% decline. And yet still, 69.1% puts BvS in some dubious territory. The last movie that saw that kind of an instant dip in box office numbers was 20th Century Fox’s similarly dismal Fantastic Four reboot (68% to be exact). To top it all off, Batman v Superman set the record for the biggest domestic decline ever at 81%. That’s the “what” of the matter. So what about the “how”?
Specifically, the question concerns how such a precipitous box office dive is even possible, and the answer can be found by looking no further than the critical reception of the movie. While poor reviews weren’t enough to scare people off on opening weekend, that honeymoon period didn’t last long. When a movie is as problematic as Batman v Superman, eventually that’s going to catch up with it. It just so happened that this was proven true after one short week.
The myriad of issues contained within BvS correlate directly with the second reason for a Week 2 decline: re-watchability. Zack Snyder’s penchant for long, drawn-out stories worked against him once before with Watchmen‘s hefty 3-hour-and-34-minute runtime. We’re seeing the same issue plague Batman v Superman, clocking in at almost exactly an hour less than that. With a lengthy runtime and a slogging series of baffling dream sequences, it’s no wonder people didn’t feel compelled to take part in a second and third viewing.
Warner Bros. has a lot to learn from the first movie in its planned cinematic universe. On one hand, it can point to the record-setting opening and over $600 million gross in the first two weeks as a sign that the movie was a rousing success. But there’s no way the studio is deaf to the myriad of complaints from both critics and fans alike concerning their grim approach to the superhero genre. That, combined with a questionably corny viral marketing campaign, has already led to a series of expensive Suicide Squad reshoots, while throwing the possibility of another standalone Superman movie into question.
How DC and Warner react and adjust to Batman v Superman will set the tone for the future of their fledgling franchise. If they choose to use their opening weekend numbers as an indication to not change anything, it could lead to even more backlash for any number of the other movies they have on tap. It would serve them well to meet the demands of their audience. Lest they risk collapsing their franchise before it even gets off the ground, some serious soul-searching will be necessary for DC’s survival at the box office.
All box office numbers come courtesy of Box Office Mojo.
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