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'Batman v Superman'... Dawn of a New March Opening Weekend Record?

by Brad Brevet
 

 
March 24, 2016

Saturday AM Update #2: Batman v Superman pulled in an estimated $67.2 million internationally on Friday for a total international cume of $115.3 million and global cume just shy of $200 million. The international total includes a $20 million opening day in China, the largest ever for a Warner Bros film; $9 million in the UK; $2.54 million in India; and $1.2 million in Japan. Additional international estimates will be available tomorrow morning, with actuals rolling in over the course of the day on Monday.

Saturday AM Update #1: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got off to a tremendous start on Friday, pulling in an estimated $82 million, which includes an impressive $27.7 million haul from Thursday previews. If the estimate holds it will be the fourth largest opening day of all-time, just ahead of the $81.9 million Jurassic World opened with last year. However, don't expect a $200+ million opening. The "B" CinemaScore, while not terrible, does suggest audience reaction is mixed and should result in notable drop on Saturday. As of now, rival studios are projecting an opening weekend anywhere from $165-172 million, which would make it the largest opening weekend for a movie based on a DC Comic property, largest March opening ever and place it within the top ten largest opening weekends of all-time.

Meanwhile, Universal's My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 pulled in an estimated $7.21 million on Friday from 3,133 locations along with a strong, "A-" CinemaScore. It's a great start for the film as the studio is now estimating a weekend haul north of $19 million.

Things don't look too good for The Divergent Series: Allegiant, which could be looking at as much as a 68% drop from its opening weekend last week as it took in a meager $3.65 million. However, in other news, Disney's Zootopia brought in an estimated $9.5 million, nearly matching last Friday as the film is now looking at a fourth weekend haul of $22-24 million.

Browse the complete chart of Friday estimates here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete look at the weekend.

Friday AM Update: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice brought in $27.7 million from Thursday preshows last night, the sixth largest Thursday preview number ever and just ahead of the $26.6 million Avengers: Age of Ultron brought in last year before kicking things off with an $84.4 million Friday and $191.2 million opening. This is also just a bit below the $30.6 million The Dark Knight Rises made from Thursday previews before opening with $160.8 million so let's take a look at these two for comparison.

Should Batman v Superman follow the same Friday-Sunday performance as Age of Ultron it would result in an $84.7 million Friday, dropping to around $56.7 million on Saturday and $50.5 million on Sunday for a $191.9 million opening. If it follows the Dark Knight Rises path it would mean a $68.4 million Friday, $40.6m Saturday and $36.3m Sunday for a $145.4 million opening. A good bet would be to expect something in the middle, which would put a good target estimate right now around $166.2 million.

Universal Pictures's My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 grossed $1.02 million from Thursday evening screenings which began at 6 PM in 2,395 theaters. This is a film that is such an outlier in terms of demographic it's tough to decide how much this tells us. Films that pull in this much in previews do tend to deliver solid weekend numbers, but there isn't enough information to really tell us if this changes anything from our forecast below.

We'll be back tomorrow with Friday estimates and see what kind of weekend is shaking out.

Weekend Preview: We've come to the final weekend in March and 2016 has already seen a superhero film top $300 million at the domestic box office, and, with the summer movie season still over a month away, another looks to bring in more than half that figure in its first three days. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has set its sight on the March opening weekend record and then some as Warner Bros. delivers the superhero showdown into 4,242 theaters this weekend. Also, as a bit of counter-programming, Universal is releasing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 into 3,130 theaters and while it won't come close to Batman v Superman, it's looking to make its own impression on the weekend box office.

Upon its release in 2012, The Hunger Games previously held the record for the widest March opening of all time (4,137 theaters) as it brought in $152.5 million, which is currently the largest March opening weekend of all-time. That is the bar Batman v Superman looks to hurdle this weekend and it will have a little help. The film's record March opening theater count includes 390 IMAX screens, 470 PLF locations, 150 D-Box theaters and more than 85% of all theaters will show the film in 3D. Add to that the additional benefit of screenings beginning as early as 6 PM on Thursday, but where there are benefits there are also complications.

Working against the film is the third and fourth rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament this weekend as well as a two-and-a-half-hour running time, but perhaps the most important blemish on its record is the critical savaging it has sustained. The film currently sits at a 31% rating at RottenTomatoes as of publication, a number that puts attention not only on the film's future prospects but also calls into question the value of a critical consensus when it comes to films with baked in audiences.

It's important to note that of the 11 live-action films that have grossed over $150 million in their opening weekend, the lowest RottenTomatoes rating of the lot is Spider-Man 3's 63% rating. Of the 31 live-action films that have grossed over $100m in their opening weekend only six have a RottenTomatoes rating below 50% and three of those are in the Twilight franchise, two are Transformers films and the sixth is 2007's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. So, what is a film with a 31% rating to do other than buck the trend and pave its own path to a $150+ million opening?

Fandango reports Batman v Superman is the ticket seller's top pre-seller among all superhero movies (beating previous record-holders, The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers: Age of Ultron) at the same point in the sales cycle. A wide margin separates the opening weekend for those two comparable titles with The Dark Knight Rises opening with $160.8 million in 2012 and Avengers: Age of Ultron opening with $191.2 million in 2015. Making a comparison to those two films a little difficult is the fact both were summer releases while BvS is the first major superhero release to open in March since 2009's Watchmen, and it arrives fresh on the heels of Deadpool's dominating performance last month.

That said, looking closer at The Dark Knight Rises we find it kicked things off with $30.6 million in Thursday previews, translating to a $75.7 million Friday. Age of Ultron brought in $27.6 million on Thursday before delivering an $84.4 million opening day. Those are big numbers for Batman v Superman to live up to, but if it wants an opening over $160 million it's going to need that Thursday number to help push its Friday over $67 million to establish good footing heading into Saturday.

For films opening between 4,200 and 4,300 theaters, the highest per theater average goes to Jurassic World at $48,855. For superhero films opening in that same range—which includes Man of Steel, Spider-Man 3, Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron—is the far more reasonable average of $37,234, which would translate to a $156.3 million opening. Given the hype surrounding the film and factors such as IMAX and 3D ticket prices, that seems like an absolute basement number. So what is the ceiling?

Given the reviews the film has received and the less than enthusiastic support Man of Steel experienced following its release, which lead to a 64.6% second weekend drop, expecting a Jurassic World level opening is pretty much out of the question. Yet, don't for a second sleep on this one somehow reaching $180 million or so. Remember, this is, for all intents and purposes, DC's Avengers. With Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) coming together, along with cameo appearances galore, this shouldn't be looked upon lightly.

Of course, DC films tend to not open as high as Marvel films, though the addition of Batman to this film does shift expectations. Two of the top ten largest opening weekends of all-time are Batman films and six of the ten largest opening weekends for DC Comics films also belong to Batman films. Two of them also belong to Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel and Watchmen). That said, no DC Comic film has ever opened higher than the $160.8 million The Dark Knight Rises brought in in 2012. Adjusted for inflation that's a $179.9 million opening, which seems like a good place to start when coming up with a reasonable ceiling.

All told, a good range for Batman v Superman's opening seems anywhere from a pessimistic opening around $157 million to an optimistic $185 million. It could go higher, but if the negative reviews from critics are reflected in general audience opinion in Friday's CinemaScore, the film's Saturday and Sunday bleeds could prove significant for not only this weekend, but next weekend as well.

Moving on, the weekend's other new wide release plays to an entirely different audience and early indication is the play is going to pay off. Universal is delivering My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 into 3,132 theaters and while early reviews may negatively compare it to a sitcom, that isn't necessarily a comparison that would turn off a general audience.

2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a massive hit that generated over $240 million domestically despite playing in just 2,016 theaters at the height of its release. Some may point to the failed 2003 sitcom "My Big Fat Greek Life" that lasted all of seven episodes as an indicator audiences aren't interested in seeing Nia Vardalos's return to the big screen as Toula Portokalos, but decent pre-sales and Google trends for the title, which are typically quite low for films targeting this demographic, suggest otherwise.

Early studio projections peg the film with a $10 million opening, which is a number that would seem accurate if the marketing was depending on nothing more than those Windex tie-in commercials, but it isn't so we can disregard that number right off the bat. So what should the number be?

While searching for comparable titles is tough, the first that comes to mind is 2008's Mamma Mia!, which faced off against The Dark Knight in July 2008 and brought in $27.7 million. Obviously, Greek Wedding 2 doesn't have the cachet of the musical that inspired Mamma Mia! or the powerhouse cast that included Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan, but it is still a sequel to a much-loved film and it sets out to serve an audience that hasn't necessarily had a film catered directly to them all year.

With $10 million obviously being too low and $27 million seeming too high, something in-between might be just right. For this one an $18.1 million opening seems like a good, ballpark figure, but if this delivers more than $20 million don't be the least bit surprised.

Elsewhere, expect another strong hold for Zootopia, which is looking to become only the tenth animated film to cross $300 million domestically. We're going with a 52% drop for Allegiant, though it could fall further based on what seems like a serious lack of interest, and Miracles from Heaven should play extraordinarily well this weekend, dropping somewhere from 12-18% or perhaps even better as it rounds out the top five.

In limited release, Sony Classics is bringing Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams to five theaters in I Saw the Light; IFC is releasing Born to be Blue in three theaters; and GKIDs is releasing April the Extraordinary World in a handful of theaters this weekend.

You can find our weekend prediction below. Stay tuned as we'll update this article with Thursday preview numbers tomorrow morning, Friday estimates on Saturday morning and return on Sunday with our complete weekend recap.

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (4,242 theaters) - $171.8 M
  • Zootopia (3,670 theaters) - $24.53 M
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (3,132 theaters) - $18.17 M
  • The Divergent Series: Allegiant (3,740 theaters) - $13.93 M
  • Miracles from Heaven (3,047 theaters) - $12.52 M
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (2,802 theaters) - $5.88 M
  • Deadpool (2,336 theaters) - $4.89 M
  • London Has Fallen (2,173 theaters) - $3.97 M
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (847 theaters) - $1.65 M
  • The Perfect Match (925 theaters) - $.97 M

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.



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