Finally. Thirty-two months after the project was announced at Comic-Con, Warner Bros’ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is seeing the light of day in every corner of the world with an estimated global opening of $350M on 35,000 screens. Worldwide, that would make BvS the second-best pre-summer and Easter debut behind Furious 7‘s $397.7M. Among all-time global debuts, F7 ranks fourth.
While Disney started the buzz for Star Wars: The Force Awakens 13 months in advance of its December 2015 release with a teaser trailer, BvS director Zack Snyder dropped the first BvS teaser 20 months ago at Comic-Con 2014. Anticipation and expectations are high for BvS: This is essentially Warner Bros. and DC’s take on Avengers, not only putting the beloved DC characters into one pot and introducing news ones — Aquaman and Wonder Woman — but a tee-off that will propel both Batman and Superman franchises to another stratosphere cinematically with the Justice League universe. One observer said last night’s New York City premiere at Radio City Music Hall “was like a rock concert” with rolling screams from the audience as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman hit the screen.
Easter isn’t a holiday to laugh about at the box office, and more studios are taking the frame seriously as it’s a good time to grab audiences on break around the globe. Warner Bros even scheduled its next Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One for a worldwide launch on Easter 2018. Furious 7 dashed all biases aside last year that Good Friday was a dull day at the B.O. since it’s a somber Christian holiday. F7 had a very Good Friday last year with a first day that ranked as the best ever for a pre-summer release with $67.4M. Twenty-three percent of that figure was made from Thursday night previews or $15.8M, and the outlook for BvS is that it could pull in a bigger portion of its Friday business from night-before previews. By comparison, Avengers: Age of Ultron made 33% of its $84.4M first day from Thursday showtimes.
Overseas the Dark Knight and the Son Jor-El are eyeing $200M in 61 territories, including a touchdown in China. Rival distributors believe in their bones that BvS is headed toward a $150M domestic FSS at 4,200 theaters — the widest pre-summer opening ever, beating the 4,137 venues that The Hunger Games debuted in during the spring of 2012 ($152.5M stateside opening). However, even if the Snyder-directed film for some reason gets dinged by critics and turns up a domestic opening of $110M, it’s not the end of the world. BvS is going to own a majority of the spring. Could it do $200M stateside? Maybe, because as we know it’s always a challenge for B.O. analysts to predict when tracking is jumping off the page. But that $150M figure seems fair. If BvS beats Hunger Games, then it will own the best pre-summer opening of all-time, and if it beats the $147.1M made by F7, then it’s an Easter record.
Already, BvS has logged between $20M-$25M in advance ticket sales at the domestic B.O. before the theater curtain raises on Thursday at 6PM in every format imaginable — Imax, 4DX, PLF; 3,500 3D sites, even 10 70MM prints.
Batman v. Superman carries an estimated production cost of $250M. One well-placed source puts its P&A at an estimated $150M. Risky? Not so much at this level. Not to mention, it’s a beloved property that Warner Bros is handling here. Poseidon, BvS is not. Financial stats have shown that studios profit more from tentpoles during their theatrical run than from lower-budget movies.
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens owns the title of top global opening ever with $528M, that projection for BvS, puts it under such superhero adaptations as Avengers and Age of Ultron (both with a $392.5M debut), Spider-Man 3 ($381.7M), and Iron Man 3 ($372.5M).
The Dawn of Justice team had a fan event in Mexico two days ago that drew 5,000 faithful. That’s a big superhero market, particularly for Batman. The UK premiere is tomorrow night — also a massive spandex play. Leaving the Middle Kingdom in the room to one side, the major markets for the past two stand-alone films, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Man of Steel (2013), were a mix of the UK, Australia, Mexico, France, Germany, Brazil and Korea.
But comps here for international are far from apples to apples. Henry Cavill’s unveiling as the son of Jor-El in Man of Steel came in a June frame in 2013 with a $73.3M opening weekend in just 24 markets. Those did not include the majors of China, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Russia, which all were in the sophomore session. BvS, even despite currency fluctuations since, will fly right past that. Importantly, China topped out at about $64M on MoS. It was the biggest market for the movie, and rode the coattails of a historic bow for Marvel rival Iron Man 3 the month before, which arguably set up the new wave of super box office for superhero pics in the Middle Kingdom.
Industry projections are placing BvS anywhere from $50M-$70M for the weekend in China, which would set it up to handily pass $100M during the early run. Ben Affleck, Cavill and Snyder traveled to Beijing to screen the film a couple of weeks ago and get audiences pumped up.
The Dark Knight Rises, the previous Batman movie before Affleck buckled the belt, ultimately did about $53M in the PROC before the market was quite mature (and opened directly opposite The Amazing Spider-Man, which went on to snare $49M at the time). More recent comps include Avengers: Age Of Ultron, with a foreign debut of $201M in just 44 markets that did not include China, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, which kicked off to $172M overseas in a day-and-date rollout in 2014.
A European exhibitor is bullish on BvS‘, with advance ticket sales running along the same lines as the U.S. This person believes that while some people might have been on the fence about seeing Batman fight Superman, the Warner Bros marketing team helped build offshore fervor. Said one insider: “Once the trailers got going and people got into it, they changed. Some trailers make you want to run right out and see it.”
Oh, and by the way, there’s another movie opening at the domestic box office this weekend: Universal’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, a sequel to the 14-year-old comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was an indie film-turned-blockbuster darling, making $241M over the course of one year. Nia Vardalos stars in and wrote Part 2 as well. Kirk Jones is sitting in the director’s chair on this one, whereas Joel Zwick helmed the original. That film wound up being a huge draw for blue hairs and, ironically, didn’t go wide until its 20th weekend in release, Labor Day 2002, where it made $14.8M over four days ($11.1M FSS). Industry estimates have the sequel with a $15M opening at 3,130 venues. Just like the studio went after women during Force Awakens‘ opening weekend with Tina Fey-Amy Poehler’s Sisters ($13.9M opening, $87M final), Uni is giving women an oasis at the multiplex with MBFGW2. The estimated production cost on the sequel is $18M and the pic was produced by Gold Circle Entertainment, Playtone and HBO.
Lionsgate’s beaten-down The Divergent Series: Allegiant is expected to drop 60% from its $29M opening for $11.6M. That’s a bit stepper than the -59% sophomore sesh posted by Insurgent (which was $21.5M) and -53% slip by Divergent ($25.6M). Sony/Affirm’s Miracles From Heaven is going to reap the Easter tidings given the high holy weekend. Non-Sony distribution executives see the pic with a $10M weekend, off 32% from its FSS of $14.8M.