When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament for 2018, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
With the notable exception of Wonder Woman, Warner Bros’ DC label has done little right over the past few years with its array of deadly serious, leaden, dark Zack Snyder films that culminated in Justice League. When Marvel mounted its all-star team movie Avengers, the results were glorious. Despite teaming Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman, Justice League way underperformed relative to its massive budget with $657.9 million in global ticket sales and made as much a no-fun zone as Batman V. Superman. Warners did a smart thing by tapping James Wan to breathe new life into Aquaman, making the introduction of Game of Thrones favorite Jason Momoa the high-water mark of Justice League — and similar to how Patty Jenkins injected an auteur’s sensibility into Wonder Woman ($821.8M) and showcased Gal Gadot. Remember these movies are supposed to be fun, and Wan did much the same by tailoring a B-level DC Comics hero perfectly for the charismatic Momoa, who hooked female audiences (in the U.S., women over 25 gave Aquaman his best score of 84% in PostTrak exits, while moms turned out in greater numbers than dads, 56% to 44%, as part of Warners’ “Moms for Momoa” campaign).
Without a Star Wars film in the Christmas corridor, Aquaman took full advantage and became the movie of the moment. The picture dove first into overseas markets and quickly grossed $300M abroad, a majority of that from China, where he was Warner Bros’ second biggest title ever there, and the fourth highest-grossing superhero movie of all time. Aquaman was slightly slower out of the gate domestically, next to other DC movies, grossing $105.4M in its first five days of release, but that was only because Christmas fell on a Tuesday last year and moviegoing explodes after that point up until MLK weekend. Aquaman turned around a 3x multiple from that launch number for a final $334.8M domestic take. Its final gross was $1.1 billion worldwide, making the film the highest global-grossing Warners-DC title ever, surpassing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08B). The movie also became the second highest-grossing film worldwide for Warner Bros after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($1.3B). China’s final take alone of $298.3M is ultimately the second best for a U.S. title in the tournament, inching out Venom‘s $272.2M in the Middle Kingdom.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Aquaman‘s profits of $260.5M are only 3% better than Wonder Woman‘s last year. Our sources found he was more expensive than Wonder Woman, $200M to $149M in net production cost — not surprising given that films with water are always more expensive. The film spent $10M less in global P&A than what Warners shelled out for Wonder Woman, at $158M. Participations on Aquaman at $30M are double what they were on Wonder Woman, but that is still a good showing when you exceed $1B in ticket sales and launch a franchise. Overall revenues between global theatrical rentals, TV and home entertainment ancillaries on Aquaman amount to $732.5M, compared with Wonder Woman‘s $659.1M that ranked sixth in last year’s tournament to Aquaman‘s fifth place here. Revenues do not include merchandise streams.