They may be two of the most beloved superheroes in superherodom, and their movie opened huge last week, launching the DC Extended Universe mega-franchise that will (hopefully) be Warner Bros.' golden spigot for at least the next five years. But all anyone can talk about this weekend is the steep second-weekend drop for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
Sure, "BvS" stayed in the top spot for its second straight weekend, earning $51.8 million. But that figure represents a huge plunge of 69 percent from last weekend's debut. It's the fifth largest second-weekend drop ever for a blockbuster that enjoyed a debut above $100 million.
What does that plunge mean? Did moviegoer sentiment catch up to the critics, who made "BvS" one of the worst-reviewed blockbusters in recent memory? Is the $250 million movie going to lose money for the studio? Are the rest of Warners' DCEU plans in trouble?
It's amusing to see all the schadenfreude over the movie's second-week stumble, especially after all the gloating last week about how the initial "BvS" success would prove the final nail in the coffin of professional film criticism. The same people who were insisting last week that the fans were the only judges who mattered are now panicking that the fans seem to agree with the critics.
Nonetheless, there's a lot to unpack in this weekend's box office drop-off, so let's see if we can
answer all the burning questions.
Did the criticism matter after all?
Probably not, but it turns out that moviegoers weren't wild about "BvS" either. They gave it a B grade at CinemaScore, which indicates unenthusiastic word-of-mouth.
It was easy to dismiss the film's negative reviews as the whines of critics who don't like superhero movies. That seems unfair, however, since plenty of superhero movies, including Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, earned thumbs-up from critics. And plenty of blockbuster spectacles that raked in money despite critical pans really did turn out to be weak films that even fans found hard to defend. Hollywood may have figured out how to get crowds to line up for such films on opening weekend despite their misgivings -- largely through fear of missing out on the pop-cultural conversation at large, or merely fear that it'll be harder to keep up with the extended franchise without seeing the early installments. But even DC Comics fans seem to have acknowledged that "BvS" didn't meet all their expectations.
Whether the griping has come from critics or ticketbuyers, Warners seems to be taking it seriously. So seriously, in fact, that there was a report this week that the studio was embarking on expensive, last-minute reshoots for the next DCEU movie, this summer's "Suicide Squad." The studio apparently took to heart the complaints that "BvS" was too ponderous and grim, since the reshoots are supposedly going to add more lightness and humor to the August release.
Does the second-week drop mean the movie's a flop?
Not necessarily. Drops of 50 to 60 percent are common for superhero films. Fans who have the most invested emotionally tend to go on opening night, driving up the opening weekend numbers, so there's an inevitable fall the second weekend. The drop is more troublesome when you consider that the film faced no major competition in the marketplace from the other studios -- it had the weekend all to itself.
The "BvS" drop is steeper than most, but the movie has still earned $261.5 million in 10 days of release in North America and a total of $682.9 million worldwide. There's no reason to think the film won't eventually top $1 billion worldwide -- which it'll have to do for the studio to break even.Could there be another factor behind this weekend's precipitous plunge?
The most obvious is the NCAA Final Four games. It's not surprising that a film targeted largely toward guys might be hurt by viewers who'd rather watch college basketball players battle for a national title than watch spandex-clad heroes duke it out on the big screen. Indeed, the March Madness contests may also have kept people from going to see this weekend's two new wide releases, "God's Not Dead 2" and "Meet the Blacks," both of which performed below expectations.
So, what are the takeaways?
First, there's no point in panicking when a movie that's on track to gross more than $1 billion makes only $51.8 million its second weekend instead of $58 million. Second, if you do want to earn that extra few million, you're less likely to leave money on the table if you make a movie that critics and fans alike can recommend to others without reservation. And third, not even the Man of Steel can overcome March Madness brackets.
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