This weekend, while audiences were watching Batman and Superman try to break each other, the movie that they were doing it in – Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice – was breaking box office records. Although final tallies are not yet reported, it looks as if director Zack Snyder’s superhero slugfest made $170 million at the US box office. Overseas, the film fared even better, pulling an additional $254 million for a combined total of $424 in ticket receipts.
For studio Warner Brothers, this marks their highest opening film in their history, beating out 2011’s Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows‘s $169 million. Batman V Superman snatched the the Biggest Opening Weekend of 2016 crown from last month’s Deadpool. It also marked the biggest Easter weekend opening ever, pushing last year’s Furious 7 from that position.
Last week, industry projections placed Batman V Superman‘s global box office take for the weekend at $350 million. So right now, the movie is performing far better than anticipated. But will that momentum hold?
Batman V Superman has been getting some notoriously brutal reviews (you can read ours here), and is currently sitting with a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s 27 points lower than the film’s predecessor Man Of Steel. Additionally, it is scoring lower on Rotten Tomatoes’s audience index – 73% versus Man Of Steel‘s 76% – and on CinemaScore’s audience polling – a “B” as opposed to Man Of Steel’s “A-“. Looking at these in total would suggest that the impact of critics and word of mouth could keep the film from performing as well as Man Of Steel did at the box office.
But for the sake of this discussion, let’s look at Man Of Steel‘s overall box office performance and see if we can apply that model to what we’ve seen so far with Batman V Superman. Snyder’s 2013 film cleared a shade over $291 million at the US box office while doing an additional $377 million internationally. That’s the foreign gross coming in at about 1.3 times the domestic, or splitting the film’s total $668 million to 43.6% domestic and 56.4% foreign. Looking at Batman V Superman‘s weekend box office, we see a much bigger split, where the $170 domestic box office take represents 40% of the total receipts, while the foreign coming out 60%. So Batman V Superman‘s domestic business is much stronger overall than Man Of Steel‘s was.
But let’s take a look at Man Of Steel‘s opening weekend and how its box office ultimately played out. When it premiered in 2013, the Superman franchise reboot pulled $116.6 million its first weekend. As noted before, Man Of Steel earned $291 million domestically over its release, or two and a half times its opening weekend. Applying that same multiplier to Batman V Superman‘s opening of $170 million and we get $425 million. Taking that projected domestic gross and using it to extrapolate a total foreign box office take with Batman V Superman‘s opening weekend one-and-a-half times foreign versus domestic multiplier and we see a projected $636 million. Some quick addition gets us to $1.06 billion dollars, just over the mark of the $1 billion analysts are saying that the film will need to clear to avoid being considered a disappointment for the studio.
Now it should be noted that this is just a rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation. There are numerous factors that could cause the final box office to fluctuate either way. For example, Deadline notes that Batman V Superman‘s CinemaScore of B should call for a multiplier of 2.25 to be applied to this weekend’s domestic gross, not the 2.5 we used. Making that adjustment, we get a total of $382.5 million for the domestic, $573.75 for the foreign and a total of $956.25. Other factors such as the film opening on a holiday weekend, the lack of a strong film opening next Friday and more may further affect these estimates. But those deviations will most likely not drive the film’s total box office numbers down below the reported $800 million Batman V Superman needs to clear in order to meet its production and marketing costs. But until further data comes in that will allow for a stronger prediction model there are probably going to be some nervous executives in the upper offices at Warner Brothers.