4TH UPDATE, Writethru Saturday 12:26 AM: After a spell of big-budget disasters last year from Jupiter Ascending to Pan, it’s finally raining cash on theWarner Bros. lot in Burbank, CA as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is set to post the biggest pre-summer opening day with $81.3M (beating Furious 7‘s $67.4M) and weekend with $171M (outstripping The Hunger Games’ $152.5M) at 4,242 theaters. That’s the widest for any release prior to May and BvS also owns the records for the top March and Easter debuts. Reported earlier on Friday: Flash grosses show BvS winning over China with $21.2M. Add that to the two-day $44M tally and the pic’s foreign cume is north of $65M.
“It’s highly unusual to see a superhero movie that’s been panned like this with such a huge opening. Typically they open big and get great reviews,” said one insider, scratching their heads over the audience’s blasé B CinemaScore and the 30% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
Quite often branded tentpoles are teflon to poor reviews, and, yes, BvS is another example of the trend. Only Bond films have to sweat critical response since their fans skew older and that demo reads reviews. But it isn’t often that we see a movie open to $100M-plus off of panned reviews and OK audience reactions. Of note, BvS joins Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 ($138.1M opening, B+ CinemaScore, 24% rotten) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($109M opening, B+ CinemaScore, 19% rotten).
So before we even discuss what may have gone wrong here with BvS this weekend,let’s discuss what went right.
Warner Bros.’ decision to release a summer tentpole over Easter weekend was genius. More kids are off from school now than during the first weekend of the B.O. summer (first weekend in May). Seventy-six percent K-12 schools were out on Good Friday with another 45% off on Monday. Rather than get crushed by the next four-quad release on the summer calendar, WB protected BvS by moving it to this Easter in August 2014; well before Furious 7 set the frame on fire last year with a $147.1M opening. At this point, BvS will have plenty of breathing room in the weeks to come with the only obstacles potentially being Disney’s live action take on The Jungle Bookand Universal’s Snow White prequel The Huntsman Winter’s War.
WB already knew that Easter audiences could lay golden eggs: the studio launched Clash of the Titans over the holiday space in 2010 ($61.2M opening). At one interval, BvS was scheduled to open during the first weekend in May, but then Marvel plopped Captain America: Civil War there. Prior to May, BvS was originally scheduled to debut on July 17, 2015, but than Ant-Man pushed it out. By moving BvSto Easter 2016, WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara was aware of the risks and rewards: 2015 was bound to be an off-year for the studio without BvS in the mix, but the studio had to get the franchise right since it was all about re-launching DC 2.0 on the big screen. While a B Cinemascore comes with a 2.9 multiple, the thinking is that BvS will leg out at 2.25x its opening to $385M stateside. The film needs to make roughly $900M worldwide if it’s going to break-even theatrically off its estimated production and P&A cost of $400M.
Next, the WB marketing and PR team did a stellar job at keeping the want-to-see alive for BvS over a 32-month period. BvS was announced at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2013. Disney first piqued our interest with a teaser trailer 13 months before the Dec. 18, 2015 release date of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. BvS director Zack Snyder dropped the first teaser 20 months ago at Comic-Con 2014. $150M global P&A spend and several trailer drops later, Warner Bros. finds itself with the best pre-summer opening of all-time. According to ComScore PostTrak polling, 18% of all moviegoers said that in-theater trailers influenced them the most to see BvS, while 17% said it was the online trailer and 11% cited TV spots.
In regards to what went awry with BvS, Warner Bros. could take a note from Disney when it comes to controlling word of mouth, specifically critical reviews. Disney was tasked with re-invigorating a major franchise, Star Wars, that was dormant over the last decade. As such, they made sure all the critics watched Episode VII at the same time. If there was any doubt that there was any potential bad word of mouth, Warner Bros. could have contained most of the critics at one screening, rather than spreading them out across a few during the last week. Poor reviews wound up tainting BvS unnecessarily after winning premiere audiences over in New York and London. Had Warners confined major city critics to watching BvS on a specific day, they could have potentially lessened the blow here, and even curbed their B CinemaScore. It’s something to consider with the next DC title, Suicide Squad, around the corner in August.
Now in the wake of bad reviews and OK audience responses, team Snyder –which is in pre-production on Justice League — faces the challenge of changing their game up. At this time, despite any amount of money being deposited in Warner Bros. coffers from BvS, it would be prudent to listen to critics and fans’ story notes, especially the near universal complaint that BvS is too long, too brooding, too hackneyed (did we really need to see Bruce Wayne’s parents die for the umpteenth time on the screen?). This is all for the sake of DC 2.0’s longevity moving forward.
At the same time, critics might acknowledge the strides that Warner Bros. has made in elevating the Batman and Superman franchises. Given critics’ acerbic reactions, you’d think they were asked to sit throughGigli or Superman III again. While WB botched Superman in the 1980s withSuperman III and Superman IV, BvSwasn’t a property they were just going to waste away. A lot of thought went into nurturing and getting this beast as good as possible with all studio departments working at full cycle.
Warner Bros. finally made the movie that most Batman fans wanted a see: A movie that was akin to an adaptation of Frank Miller’s beloved The Dark Knight Returnscomic book series, which ends with Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne beating the crap out of each other. No amount of dagger-throwing by New York Times critic A.O. Scott orWall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern was going to prevent audiences from watchingBvS. Not to mention, they finally got to see Wonder Woman’s bigscreen debut (a Fandango poll revealed that 88% were interested in seeing the movie just for her). Rev4 movie theater metrics showed that of those polled over the last two weeks in their theater sample, 75% said they wanted to buy a ticket to BvS to 18.5% who replied “No”. Sixty-percent of those polled by ComScore last night said they bought tickets in advance.
When WB began launching its Batman films in 1989 via Tim Burton’s psychedelic goggles, Miller’s Dark Knight Returns had already been in release for three years. At the time, the property was too ambitious for Warner Bros. to make: Batman was an old man, the story took place in an ultra-violent Gotham and it presented this high concept notion of the city’s good guys going at each other’s throats. A few years ago, I asked BvS screenwriter David Goyer if Dark Knight Returns is the movie that everyone wants to see, then why didn’t Warners already make it? His response was that the property was too risky to just spring on mass audiences; their palette needed to be primed before springing Dark Knight Returns on them. And that’s essentially the evolution that’s been going on from Burton to Christopher Nolan to Snyder.
BvS’ $27.7M Thursday reps 34% of its Friday figure, beating all superhero preview nights outside of The Dark Knight Rises’ midnight shows ($30.6M). Not only are Imax, RealD, 4DX drivers for BvS’ biz, but this film is projecting 41 times on Saturday at the Hollywood Arclight, with showtimes ranging from 8:30AM to 2:30AM. Meanwhile, over at the AMC Empire at 42nd Street in NYC,BvS boasts 53 showtimes from 8:30am to 3AM.
The Snyder mashup is currently estimated to take a 35% decline on Saturday for $52.8M. That percent decline is on par with Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s second day. ComScore PostTrak audience gave BvS a 73% grade in the very good/excellent boxes. Definite recommend rate to friends remains at a solid 60%. Looking at the family responses — it’s pretty damn good. Parents give BvS a very good/excellent score of 79% while kids under 12 grade it at 87%. Seventy-nine percent of all parents are spreading good WOM to their friends about Snyder’s movie while 75% of all the kids that watched it are telling their friends immediately about it. Boys made up most of the kid crowd at 60% with 45% between the ages of 10-12. Primary reasons why they showed up? 18% said it was because it was a superhero/comic book movie, 16% were Batman fans, while 9% came out for Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot.
Guess what’s in second place? Disney’s Zootopia, which is looking at an estimated $23.9M in its fourth frame, off 36%, elevating its cume by Sunday to $241.3M. That’s 6% ahead of where Pixar’s Finding Nemo was at the same point in time and 46% ahead of Disney original animated feature Frozen through its first 24 days.
Universal’s distribution of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 from Playtone/Gold Circle/HBO is now looking at a Friday of $7.7M, putting its opening at $19.1M in third place at 3,133 venues. Estimated production cost was $18M, which is 3.6 times more expensive than the 2002 movie. Audiences still love this fluffy movie 14 years later with an A- CinemaScore. It’s hard for some to find a comp for this. The first Greek Wedding wasn’t monitored by CinemaScore and studios don’t make sequels for blue hairs anymore (remember Grumpier Old Men?)
Lionsgate’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant falls to fourth with an estimated $3.9M for Friday and a black eye -66% second weekend decline of $9.8M putting its 10-day at $46.9M. That’s steeper than the -59% second frame drop weathered by Insurgent a year ago when it came up against DreamWorks Animation’s Home and Warner Bros.’ Get Hard. Sony/Affirm’s Miracles From Heaven at 3,047 is a tad thinner than projected with a second sesh of $9.3M and a running cume of $34M in fifth place. Still the labels have something else to be happy about: their sword and sandal film Risen has risen to 10th place with just under $1M and a six weekend total of $36M.
More good news for superhero movies this weekend: 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool by Sunday will be within $900K of overtaking Warner Bros.’ American Sniper as the second highest R-rated film at the domestic B.O. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ still rules the adult record with $370.8M.
Weekend industry estimates as of 9:21PM for Easter weekend 2016, March 25-27:
1).Batman v Superman (WB), 4,242 theaters/ $81.3M Fri.* / 3-day cume: $171M/ Wk 1
*includes $27.7M previews
2). Zootopia (DIS), 3,670 theaters (-289)/ $9.8 Fri. (+2%)/ 3-day cume: $23.9M (-36%)/Total Cume: $241.3M/Wk 4
3).My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (UNI), 3,133 theaters/ $7.7M Fri.+ / 3-day cume: $19.1M / Wk 1
+includes $1.02M Thursday previews
4).Allegiant (LG), 3,740 theaters/ $3.9M Fri. (-67%)/ 3-day cume: $9.8M (-66%)/Total cume: $46.9M Wk 2
5).Miracles From Heaven (SONY), 3,047 theaters/ $3.3M Fri.(-20%) / 3-day cume: $9.3M (-37%)/Total Cume: $34M Wk 2
6).10 Cloverfield Lane (PAR), 2,802 theaters (-625)/ $2.1M Fri. (-42%) / 3-day cume: $6M (-52%)/Total cume: $56M / Wk 3
7). Deadpool (FOX), 2,336 theaters (-588) / $1.66M Fri. (-26%) / 3-day cume: $4.7M (-41%) / Total Cume: $349.2M / Wk 6
8). London Has Fallen (FOC), 2,173 theaters (-838)/ $993k Fri. (-47%)/ 3-day cume: $2.8M (-59%)/Total Cume: $55.5M/ Wk 4
9) Hello, My Name Is Doris (RSA), 488 theaters (+360)/ $483K Fri. (+85%) / 3-day cume: $1.5m (+48%)/Total Cume:$3M/ Wk 3
10). Risen (SONY), 634 theaters (-571)/ $349K Fri. (+20%) / 3-day cume: $947K (-17%) /Total Cume: $36M /Wk 6
11) Eye in the Sky (BLST), 123 theaters (+88)/ $288K Fri. (+160%) / 3-day cume: $924K (+119%)/Total Cume: $1.6M/ Wk 3
Oopiri (INDIN), 90 theaters/ $160K Fri. / 3-day cume: $437K (-90%)/ Wk 1
Ambarsariya (WHP), 49 theaters/ $125K Fri. / 3-day cume: $345K/ Wk 1
Midnight Special (WB), 5 theaters/ $26K Fri. (-58%) / 3-day cume: $82K (-57%)/PTA: $16K/Total: $343K/ Wk 2
I Saw the Light (SPC), 5 theaters/ $15K Fri./ 3-day cume: $44K/PTA: $9K/ Wk 1
The Bronze (SPC), 333 theaters (-834)/ $13K Fri.(-90%) / 3-day cume: $37K (-90%)/Total: $609K/ Wk 2
PREVIOUS, 8 AM: Whatever war of words Warner Bros’ Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice lost with critics with a 30% Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s making up for nine-fold at the box office. Last night, Zack Snyder’s Dark Knight and Son of Jor’El smackdown had a great Thursday at the B.O. reaping $27.7M, punching out the preview cash made by Disney/Marvel’s Age of Ultron ($27.6M from 7PM shows), Avengers ($18.7M, midnight) and Iron Man 3 ($15.6M, 9PM) as well as Warner Bros. 2008 midnight shows from Dark Knight ($18.5M).
BvS Thursday night also drives Universal’s Furious 7’s $15.7M preview from a year ago off the record books, becoming the best pre-Easter preview. F7’s Thursday repped 23% of its opening Good Friday figure of $67.4M. That number was the best pre-summer opening day before turning into the best April and Easter opening of all-time with $147.2M. DespiteBvS’ reviews, weekend projections continue to be in the $160M+ range. Advance ticket sales for BvS have been estimated to be between $20M-$25M; 60% of those polled by ComScore last night said they bought tickets ahead of time. Some believed that if the reviews had hit 60% rotten, that the pic’s FSS would surge to $175M, however, last night’s ticket sales indicate that the best is yet to come. Essentially, Friday could potentially generate over 90% additional ticket sales on top of last night’s results for BvS, when you consider that Avengers: Age of Ultron made 33% of its $84.4M first day from Thursday showtimes starting at 7PM, while Avengers grossed $18.7M or 23% of its $80.8M opening day from midnight previews.
According to ComScore PostTrak, which polls throughout the weekend, the word of mouth is great for BvS. Seventy-one percent of Thursday’s crowd gave BvS an excellent or very good grade. Even better news for Warner Bros. after those reviews: 60% of the audience said they would definitely recommend BvS to their friends while 33% said they’ll probably tell them about it. Older males were out in force (no surprise) at 69% guys, 57% over 25. Fifty-one percent saw it in 3D. Twenty-five percent said BvS exceeded their expectations while 60% said the film met their expectations.
Typically such superhero pics are critic-proof (Man of Steel‘s at 56% rotten wasn’t impeded by any negative ink posting a $116.6M opening). Star Wars: The Force Awakens threw the preview B.O. bar up to all-time high of $57M back in December, and among superhero movies, The Dark Knight Rises midnight shows best BvS’ Thursday with $30.6M. BvS Imax hubs, which repped 41% of the audience per ComScore, made $3.6M, the best pre-Easter for the format ever.
In its first day abroad, BvS grossed $7M, ranking N0. 1 in Wednesday markets Spain, Norway, France and Italy. In total, BvS will be in projecting at 35,000 screens around the world, with an eye at cracking a global debut of $350M+. We should be getting another update today.
Meanwhile Universal/Gold Circle/Playtone/HBO’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 stood as tall as it could during previews against BvS grossing $1.02M from 2,395 venues that started at 6PM. Many project a $15M opening for the sequel to the 2002 romantic comedy, which is $200K shy of the original’s 4-day Labor Day wide break as the pic was platformed for five months prior. Again, Uni, is playing similar chess moves at the B.O. as they did during Star Wars: The Force Awakens gargantuan weekend by going after women (and older folk) who have zero patience for BvS. MYBFGW2‘s Thursday night beats the $769K made by the R-rated Sisters.
Warner Bros. has a lot riding on the line with BvS. Above and beyond the estimated $400M pricetag (that includes P&A), the film is their chip at rebooting DC Comics features in the wake of Christoper Nolan’s successful $2.46B Dark Knight trilogy and the God-awful Green Lantern ($200M production cost, $219M global B.O.) which was a sour note in their extended universe superhero adaptations.
Easter used to be a meh time to launch a movie, but that’s changed. Dollar by dollar, year by year distributors have swelled Easter weekend to a new bar, proving that audiences aren’t holier than thou in their moviegoing, rather love to get out of the house during the holiday break. Weinstein/Dimension took the weekend to a new level with its $40.2M debut of Scary Movie 4 in 2006. Then Warner Bros. pulled out all the stops with its post-Avatar 3D breakthrough Clash of the Titans which debuted to $61.2M. Then Uni’s F7 blew the hinges off the bunny frame with a $147.1M FSS. Seventy-six percent of all K-12 schools are out today with another 45% out on Monday. Heck, Warners should just count BvS as a 4-day opening.
Outside BvS, Disney’s Zootopia topped the Thursday B.O. with $4.5M raising its three week total to $217.5M, followed by Lionsgate’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant in second with $1.88M and a seven day cume of $37.1M.