If you’ve had the pleasure of reading any comments section of any article concerning Batman v Superman since its release, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed or even participated in the war of words between die-hard DC apologists who will not stand for anyone criticizing the film’s box office and anti-DC/Snyder cavilers who want to decry the movie’s box office as an utter failure that is actually going to lose money. The truth is that they’re both half-right. Batman v Superman is going to ultimately be a success, but it’s also fallen short of what DC must have hoped it would achieve.
Here are the facts of the case.
4$420 Million Worldwide on Opening Weekend Was Impressive; The Record it Set Was Arbitrary
$420 million out of the gate globally is a great start no matter how you look at it. It was an opening weekend big enough to all but guarantee that the movie would turn a profit. Everyone involved with Batman v Superman and every fan of the film had every right to feel good about its opening weekend, especially in the face of what started to feel like an overzealous barrage of criticism leading up to the film’s release.
That said, anyone who was pointing to the “record” the film set for largest global opening for a superhero film should have pumped their brakes. The record is at best arbitrary, at worst misleading. While BvS opened domestically and internationally on the same weekend, the Marvel movies with a comparable budget staggered their release dates. If you go through the trouble of adding up the opening weekend figures by country–and not by date, which is pretty much meaningless–Age of Ultron‘s opening total smashes Batman v Superman‘s. The fact that Age of Ultron did over $100 million better in its opening in China than BvS did should be evidence of this alone. AoU also beat BvS by approximately $15 million in South Korea, $7 million in the UK, $9 million in Russia, $6 million in Mexico, $3 million in Italy, and so forth.
Think of it this way, if you worked for a company that cut one pay check at the end of the month for your month’s pay, and your rival worked for a company that splits their monthly pay into two different checks received on the 15th and the end of the month, it would be silly of you to brag about receiving a $10,000 end-of-month check when your rival’s end-of-month check is “only” $8,000. They already cashed another $8,000 check about two weeks ago. They make more than you.
3You Shouldn’t Call BvS a Failure Just Because it Might Not Reach $1 Billion Worldwide
Iron Man 2 had a $200 million dollar budget and “only” made $600 million globally. Nobody at the time was claiming IM2 wouldn’t be profitable with those numbers. We all know the numbers are never as cut-and-dry as a budget-to-gross comparison, but they’re also more complicated than simply estimating an astronomical advertising cost, disregarding product placement and cross-promotion profits, and coming up with some random “break-even” figure that suits your argument.
Reliable sources indicate that the movie is going to prove profitable, although it will disappointingly not be as profitable as Man of Steel. To all of you eager BvS detractors out there, that’s bad enough. No need to invent mythical monetary benchmarks to prove your point.
2Making More Money Than Movies With Notably Smaller Budgets is Not a Bright Spot
Some of the ardent DC defenders are quick to point out that BvS has still pulled in more money than The Incredible Hulk, the Thor movies, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America. Notwithstanding the fact that none of these characters in their stand-alone films should carry the cachet of a Superman / Batman team-up that guest stars Wonder Woman, those movies were all made for $80-$100 million less than Batman v Superman. It’s supposed to pull in more than those movies, just like Spectre is supposed to make more than Casino Royale. When comparing two films with a notable budget disparity, it’s only a feather in your cap if you’re the underdog and still make more money. When you’re the movie with the bigger budget (to go along with bigger names) and you make more money, that’s just doing what you’re supposed to do.
1Batman v Superman (+ Wonder Woman) < Batman by His Damn Self
This has to be the most disappointing thing for DC and Warner Brothers. Christopher Nolan’s last two Batman movies crossed the $1 billion threshold. As already stated, failure to reach the big billion-dollar mark doesn’t make the movie itself a failure, but there’s no way DC and Warner could claim to be anything short of disappointed if the film does lesser business than the two last two films in Nolan’s trilogy.
The Dark Knight became the first superhero movie to make $1 billion after Batman Begins came in with “merely” $374 million. That’s important to note, because it’s not as if Begins had a box office that would have led anyone to believe The Dark Knight would be a record-setter. TDK was a phenomenon that bested even the highest opening weekend estimates of the time, and completely obliterated the more conservative predictions. The Dark Knight Rises was only marginally better at the box office overall, but was a significantly bigger hit overseas than its predecessor, indicating the growth of the Bat-brand in the global market.
Forget about comparing BvS to any of the biggest Marvel movies. DC can look in-house to see where BvS doesn’t measure up. Teaming Batman with the most iconic superhero of all time–coming off his own moderately successful reboot–and the most iconic female superhero of all time should have produced a gross that at least matched a Batman solo feature. That BvS will likely fall short of this isn’t going to derail DC’s franchise aspirations, but it may be enough to make them reevaluate their current creative direction.