Friday’s overseas box office for Warner Bros’ Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice has come in at $19.2M in 67 markets. That reps a 71% drop from last Friday’s number in 62, including China. The international cume is now $363.4M.
While China remains the top overseas market for Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, the Tomb Sweeping holiday this weekend has seen BvS essentially buried by a pair of new local films. As predicted last week, the arrival of The Bodyguard and Chongqing Hot Pot is overtaking the superhero mashup this session. BvS made an estimated $2.6M on Friday, per Warner’s flash numbers. That relegated it to 4th place on the day, also behind China title Who Sleeps My Bro. It is straddling 3rd/4th place on Saturday with about $4.65M, according to local tracking, which has it vying with Disney’s Zootopia. The Bodyguard, with Sammo Hung, is in first place with a rough $16.5M-$17.2M cume, followed by Chongqing Hot Pot and its $13M/$13.1M over two days. After debuting at No. 3 on Friday, Who Sleeps My Bro slipped to 5th place on Saturday with a rough total of $7M. The Chinese flash numbers are always a bit tricky, but Warner has BvS at $75M through Friday and local tracking is at an estimated $80M cume through Saturday. BvS will have to overcome a good dose of kryptonite to get to, or much beyond, $100M in the next three weeks of its run. Let’s return to China a bit further down.
Friday grosses elsewhere per WB include $2.1M in the UK where the spandex-clad duo have 45% of the Top 5 movies. The cume is $35.4M through Friday. Mexico generated another $1.4M on 2,710 screens with 57% of the Top 5 market share. School holidays are still in play there and the cume is $25.9M. Brazil has a great 64% share of the Top 5 and $1.1M on Friday for a $17.5M total to date. Germany grossed an estimated $921K on 1,050 screens, holding 43% of the Top 5 with a cume of $12.7M. In Australia, where school holidays are in full swing in major markets, an $805K Friday on 594 screens takes the tally to $15.3M. Friday grosses in Japan came in at $652K on 718 screens, bringing the cume to $7.8M. BvS leads France, although competition is tough from newcomer Kung Fu Panda 3, with an estimated $509K on Friday for $12.2M to date. Korea kicked up $453K in first place for $12.3M overall. Spain continues to dominate the market at an estimated $380K from 630 screens. The cume is now $8.1M. Russia took in an estimated $353K on roughly 2,111 screens, bringing the running cume to $10M. Finally, Italy grossed an estimated $341K on 803 screens, and has a cume of $8.9M with nearly 50% of the Top 5 market share on Friday.
Back to the Middle Kingdom. Despite some online griping that BvS opened low last weekend, its $57M was in line with industry projections of a $40M-$70M start. The mid-weeks were steady-to-middling, although it retained the No. 1 spot until Friday.
It’s not unprecedented for a U.S. tentpole with expected impact to open strongly in China and then fall off. Witness Spectre and its $44.5M start last November which then couldn’t get much past $83.5M. Same goes for The Martian, a film that included a pro-Chinese plot element, but didn’t crack $95M. Some of that is down to dating, shifting screen counts and also the strong draw of local films. Yesterday’s new entry, The Bodyguard, for example, had roughly 52K screenings compared to BvS’ 23K.
China’s first quarter at the box office was a 50% increase on last year’s similar frame with about $2.2B in takings. Much of that, however, is attributable to the monster run of The Mermaid which now has about $520M in box office and is the country’s biggest grosser ever by a wide margin. The top 2016 U.S. titles thus far have been Zootopia ($201M through last Sunday), Kung Fu Panda 3 ($147.5M), Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($125.4M), BvS and The Revenant ($56M through today, again per local tracking). Each of those films is currently in the Top 10 for the year.
Overall, the expected drop-off this weekend internationally on BvS is expected to be on par with the U.S., perhaps slightly lower. There are school holidays in several markets and like in the U.S., but not China, precious few new offerings. Kung Fu Panda 3 expanded in some markets and has had a great start in France. Zootopia is the major challenger in some areas, including Germany and Korea.
Industry execs earlier this week predicted BvS ends its international run anywhere from $550M-$800M. That’s a big swing and a more sober view has it perhaps on either side of $675M. The reviews that didn’t hurt Supe or the Dark Knight last weekend will have made an impact in the sophomore session; and the long holiday in a lot of markets last frame was also a help.
An international exec says, “I think you have to assume the Easter holiday and relatively crap weather everywhere boosted the opening weekend. I would assume shorter legs than normal.”
Another, speaking specifically about China, adds they thought BvS did better than expected at open, but notes that DC movies are darker than Marvel flicks and this person believes that makes Marvel a little more suitable for the China market. “Obviously, films like Avengers have taken it up a whole other level now for Marvel in China,” I’m told.
Still, the match-up marks a new era for the superheroes who haven’t been seen in the PROC since The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 and Man Of Steel in 2013. There’s been a high dose of Marvel pics in the intervening boom years which have fared strongly beginning with Iron Man 3 in 2013 and going through to The Avengers: Age Of Ultron at $240M last year. Ant-Man, shoved into a crowded calendar in fall 2015, even managed $105M+ despite unfamiliarity with the pint-sized character.
With each subsequent DC film, it’s thought, the profile of the characters will grow as will the box office. It’s worth noting that the $57M opening was not chump change. Its three-day debut actually topped the three-day starts of The Force Awakens and Kung Fu Panda 3 this year.
Another source agrees that “Marvel is a more established brand in China,” but also points to the issue of protectionism. The Middle Kingdom has no doubt become savvier about balancing the sometimes strained relationship it has with Hollywood. On the one hand, it’s notoriously double-dated pics against one another and dropped in surprise sneaks of local movies to throw a wrench into the proceedings and maintain its dominant market share. But it’s also played ball recently with more day-and-date releases and more Friday bows for studio pics. There was some egg on its face last month when the success of The Mermaid was countered by the controversy surrounding Ip Man 3 whose producers have been found to have manipulated Mainland box office. The powers that be slapped them on the wrists and have vowed to be more vigilant and punishing when it comes to box office fraud, but the PROC no longer appears to be the almost certain winning ticket for Hollywood, whose own hands remain relatively cuffed.
An exec comments, “The Chinese studios have really figured out their hometown market extremely quickly and with top-notch expertise and execution. U.S. studios are falling behind quickly with the consumer there, and market share has been falling steadily while the market overall continues to grow. Not good. And, under-performance by a blockbuster film in China like Batman V Superman doesn’t seem like a one time event unfortunately.”