The amount of controversy surrounding the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been stunning. An epic throw-down between two of the most iconic superheroes in the DC universe seems like a slam dunk in every way, shape, and form. But with a needlessly hefty runtime paired with key story issues, critics lampooned it (ourselves included) to the tune of a 29% Rotten Tomatoes score. This cast a pall over what many thought would be the triumphant unveiling of DC’s movie universe, albeit one that wouldn’t last long before the box office numbers came rolling in.
Batman v Superman may have been widely disliked by critics, but that didn’t stop it from opening to a $424 million weekend worldwide. To put that in context: Deadpool made $264 million in its opening weekend, while the first Avengers movie made $392 million. Overall, Batman v Superman now has the fourth biggest worldwide opening of any movie ever, sitting just behind the final Harry Potter movie, and a shade ahead of Furious 7.
A $424 million weekend is only a small piece of the puzzle in terms of the story here. While record-breaking, a large majority of that total came from foreign grosses (59% to be exact). The result: Batman v Superman actually under-performed stateside. According to Variety, the projected domestic number from Warner Bros. was actually $4 million more than the final tally of $166.1 million, and that’s in a weekend where they had virtually no competition from any other studio. That lack of competition though could be the movie’s saving grace; the next major blockbuster doesn’t arrive until April 15, in the form of Disney’s Jungle Book reboot. That’s a full two-plus weeks of potential box office dominance for DC/Warner for anyone counting.
All lofty numbers for Batman v Superman‘s release point to a surprising discrepancy between critics and fans. It also goes to show that the age of the superhero genre is far from over. If a movie widely regarded as problematic, scattered, and sometimes even boring, can break into the top 5 for all-time opening weekends, it tells us a lot about just how hungry audiences are for an alternative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Combine that with Deadpool‘s own record-breaking opening and we see a full-blown trend developing in opposition to Marvel Studios.
Knowing all this, it makes May 6 an important date. That’s of course the day Captain America: Civil War releases. And when the numbers start to come in, we’ll get a full picture of just how DC is doing in its quest to build out its own movie-verse. More than that, it’ll be the first in a series of battles between studios, as DC ramps up to its two-part Justice League saga beginning in November 2017. If Civil War falls short of Batman v Superman‘s $424 million opening, things could get interesting in the world of superhero cinema.
Perhaps the most important thing to acknowledge here is the fact that the comic book genre is far from “only for the nerds” territory now. A movie doesn’t make almost half a billion dollars in a single weekend by appealing only to a small niche of die-hards. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is proof positive that the counter-culture has officially and triumphantly become the gold standard, and soon we’ll see that emphasized by the May releases of Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. For the time being, DC can bask in the glory of its own record-setting weekend, knowing full well that the real war is only just now beginning.
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