Shrugging off an avalanche of negative reviews, Suicide Squad smashed box office records this weekend with a take of $135.1 million domestically. That total puts it well past previous biggest August opening weekend record holder Guardians Of The Galaxy and its $93.4 million in ticket sales in 2014. This also lands the film at the number three spot for biggest opening weekend of 2016, right behind Captain America: Civil War and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Additionally, Suicide Squad more than doubled that with its international box office sales for a grand total of $267 million.
Not bad numbers considering that on a per day basis, the domestic box office take for Suicide Squad dropped a rather alarming 41% between Friday and Saturday. Poor word of mouth is currently being blamed for the drastic fall. And it is this unexpected drop that caused the film to fall short of its projected $140 million box office take.
At a reported cost of somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 million, Suicide Squad is going to have to pull in a total of some $750 to $800 million to get it into profit for the studio after advertising and distribution costs are all figured in. But if Suicide Squad follows the same box office trajectory as the previous film in Warner Brothers DC Extended Universe franchise, Batman V Superman, it could conceivably fall short of that mark, maxing out at around $650 million.
One of the biggest impactors on that final number is the fact that the film appears that it will not be getting a release in China, one of the biggest foreign film markets for Hollywood.
According to the Hollywood Reporter –
China Film Group, the state-backed distributor that handles the import of all foreign films, hasn’t put the movie on its internal release calendar, which is typically set at least two months in advance. “They think this is not a good film to release in China,” a Chinese executive said without elaborating.
The Chinese government only allows a small number of Hollywood films to screen in the country every year. And their censorship rules are fairly strict, where there is a general prohibition on films “propagating passive or negative outlook on life, worldview and value system.” Additionally, it has been reported that there are supposedly prohibitions on such things as supernatural, magic and time travel elements. Sony’s Ghostbusters was denied a release earlier this summer and it seems like a story about a group of unrepentant criminals fighting a magical threat outweighs any propaganda value to be found in the fact that the United States government can be viewed as the real villain of the film.
Even though Hollywood only gets back 20-25% of Chinese box office receipts, that can still materially add towards helping a studio turn a profit on big budget films. And Hollywood films have done big business when they do get a Chinese release. Disney’s Zootopia pulled in $235.5 million and Marvel/Disney’s Captain America: Civil War managed $190.4 million. And even a domestic box office dud like Warcraft still sold $221 million in tickets to Chinese audiences.
Whether Suicide Squad manages to make its nut back will depend on a few factors.
First off all, we’ll need to see if the film has any legs to it at the box office. Batman V Superman had an almost 70% drop off in its second weekend, and with Suicide Squad having a similar Saturday drop off its opening weekend that Batman V Superman had, it looks as if we could possibly expect a similar parallel this coming weekend. The only thing that might slow that freefall is the fact that audiences have given Suicide Squad a CineamScore of B+, which is a bit higher than than the flat B that Batman V Superman received.
Secondly, the film has yet to open nine of the bigger international markets – Egypt, Denmark, Pakistan, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, and Japan. These markets could substantially boost the international numbers for the film, getting it up to and perhaps even past that needed $800 million break even point.