The Final Verdict on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Success or Flop?
by Chris Morris

When Zack Snyder announced during San Diego Comic Con 2013 that the sequel to Man of Steel would include The Dark Knight himself, Batman, and the two would be sharing the big IMAX-sized live-action screen for the first time ever, it was huge. Man of Steel had done okay at the box office and didn’t have that much momentum at the Con, until that announcement.

Afterwards, most people online congratulated WB for “winning Comic Con” for that year. The possibilities, the ideas…THIS was how WB/DC would defeat the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, The Avengers were cool, but having Batman and Superman in the same movie? Finally, after 75 years plus? A homerun for sure! Oh wait, it’s going to be based on, at least partially, on The Dark Knight Returns? And it’s all building to a Justice League movie? It’s a Grand Slam!

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Then they cast Ben Affleck as Batman and the internet lost it’s collective minds. But, it was getting the movie LOTS of publicity. No one would go into this film thinking it would be Christian Bale under the cowl. People were talking about this film. A LOT! Perhaps not for the right reasons, but still, it was trending…and there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Even if Jesse Eisenberg is playing Lex Luthor…

Then came the name. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. Again, no such thing as bad publicity, right? Even though people made fun of the name, it was trending…People said they were rushing things…why not be like Marvel and have a Batman stand alone movie, then a Wonder Woman movie and…so on…

Then came the traditional WB massive marketing campaign. The movie was everywhere! The new Batsuit, er, Bat Armour looked kinda cool. Every time you went into 7-11 to get a Slurpee and some Doritos, you saw their faces. Trailers were released and dissected, second by second. Then, Wonder Woman was going to be in this film! The first time in movie theaters, and the first time in (successful) live action since Lynda Carter! A reason to rejoice, right?

3- BvS

Well, Gal Gadot was too skinny to play Wonder Woman, so they said. The trailers were too dark they said. Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor was…just wrong they said.

But there were lots of people wanting the film to succeed. How could it fail? Batman…Superman…now Wonder Woman too! It was TOO BIG TO FAIL!

WB brass learned from Man of Steel and tried to keep expectations muted. For MoS, WB President Kevin Tsujihara predicted the movie would make at least $500 million just domestically, and Jeff Robinov predicted it would be the most successful WB movie ever, saying it would make more than not only Batman (The Dark Night and Dark Knight Rises both made over the $1 billion mark) but Harry Potter as well, the biggest of which made $1.3 billion at the box office. Man of Steel ended up making $291 million domestic and $668 million total, nowhere near their stated goals.

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This time, WB was more guarded, but with a reported budget of $250 million and an additional $150 million in marketing internationally, insiders knew that the film, after the movie theater/distributor split of “the nut”, would have to make $800 million to break even and at least over a billion dollars to make investors happy.

But then the movie was pulled from the scheduled July 2015 release and re-scheduled for May 2016, putting a huge hole in the WB’s bottom line for 2015 but also making BvS direct competition with Captain America: Civil War. As if the two films wouldn’t already be compared, with their similar storylines, but being released so close together, in the same month, will lead to direct comparisons with box office results too. WB eventually “flinched” and moved BvS to March.

There was an early screening for WB executives that apparently ended with standing ovations. Buzz was good. Possibly the biggest supporter of the film, who had nothing really to do with it, Clerks director Kevin Smith, said many times on his many podcasts that this film would and should easily break the $2 BILLION mark. How could it not?

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But the WB seemed to get nervous. It released a trailer that, among other things, revealed that Superman and Batman would end up fighting side-by-side, rather than actually end up killing each other. And with Wonder Woman, they would all end up fighting a monster that looked a lot like Doomsday in the movie’s big finale. Now the whole “Pick a side” marketing campaign seemed silly with them revealing the two would end up as Super Friends. But did anyone really believe anything different, when you really thought about it? I assume this was done to appease the masses, the ones who like trailers that give away the whole movie….

Then the early reviews came out and they weren’t kind. But in the modern age, with both Siskel and Ebert passed on, do the critics matter anymore? Apparently not as the opening weekend’s box office was huge. The movie grossed $166 million in it’s first weekend, more than The Dark Knight Rises and the 8th biggest opening of all time domestically. Worldwide, the movie had the 4th biggest opening of all time with $422.5 million. However it also had the biggest Friday to Sunday drop in attendance for a modern superhero movie, 54%, even bigger than the latest Fantastic Four movie. The following weekend wasn’t good either, with an 81.2% drop from Friday to Friday, which was “historic”, and a 68.4% drop for the weekend as a whole.

BvS’s totals are now around $871 million dollars. It had to make $800 million to break even, according to sources Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. So, BvS is in the black. But was the WB brass expecting to “break even” on this, a movie that was supposed to “launch a thousand ships”, er, “franchises” so to speak?

Let’s consider these stats:
– Batman was in this movie, for the first time on screen in four years
– The last two Batman films both made over $1 billion.
– The Dark Knight made $1.05 billion
– The Dark Knight Rises made $1.08 billion
– Man of Steel made $668 million
– Iron Man was a massive hit but it only made $585 million
– The 2nd Marvel movie, The Incredible Hulk, made only $263 million
– The Avengers made a huge $1.52 billion
– Guardians of the Galaxy made $773 million, more than Man of Steel
– Avengers: Age of Ultron made $1.4 billion
– While I was going to ignore non-DC and Marvel movies, it’s worth pointing out that Fox’s Deadpool made $763 million, again more than Man of Steel
– Wonder Woman has never been in a live action film before and there are people who have been waiting years to see this…

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And probably the two biggest stats of all:
– Captain America: Civil War has (so far) made $1.112 billion after 4 weeks
– Batman v Superman has made $871 million after 10 weeks

So is “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” a success or a failure? Strangely, even though a lot of this speculation is based on math, different people have different opinions on this subject. One article in the Hollywood Reporter quoted an industry analyst who said “How can a movie that makes over $800 million be a failure?”. And that is a very good question. According to an article for Deadline by Anthony D’Allessandro back in April, the movie is theatrically “in the red. Per our film sources, BvS has to hit $925 million to profit theatrically”

But we haven’t even talked about merchandise, the Ultimate Edition Blu-Ray sales and all the other subsidiary dollars coming in. So most likely the movie will break even.

But when a movie is “supposed to” make over a billion easily, possibly be the biggest film EVER…then “breaking even” is considered a failure. I’m sure the WB isn’t hurting, and this was in no way the bomb that Fantastic Four was last year, where people are saying the franchise is done. But it doesn’t seem like anyone at WB were doing cartwheels come April.

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But the WB responded, not with a press release cancelling any further movies or firing Zack Snyder. But they have put other people in charge and there is actually a DC Films division now. Geoff Johns and WB executive vice president Jon Berg are now in charge, with Charles Roven being promoted rather than fired, as one does in Hollywood. But there still is no Kevin Feige of DC Films, and that could still lead to problems. But at least they have addressed some issues going forward. This response seems to be an admission that the movie failed on some level.

But look up any message board or comic book/movie inspired Facebook group and you should be able to find a number of people who will defend this movie to the death. Despite the math, despite the evidence, to them BvS was a massive success and if only the “haters” could see past the Marvel fanboy-love/conspiracy…Their passion, though some could say misguided, clearly shows that the movie hit a chord with some and those people will passionately defend the “greatness” of this movie. Can someone that inspired be wrong?

What do you think?
Where do you stand?
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Chris Morris is a filmmaker, world-traveller and comic book writer. He’s currently working on “The Supers: the 3rd Best Super-Team in the World”