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Weekend Estimates: How Much Trouble Does a $96 Million Opening Spell for the DCEU?

November 19th, 2017

Justice League

Justice League was meant to the be the big pay-off for the first phase of the DC Extended Universe, bringing together the characters introduced in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman, and setting the stage for next year’s Aquaman. The huge success of Wonder Woman this Summer seemed to be just the kick the franchise needed, and, given the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which enjoyed steadily building success leading up to the gigantic opening of The Avengers, an opening north of $150 million, and maybe even approaching $200 million seemed a possibility a couple of months ago. In that context, the $96 million projected weekend announced by Warner Bros. this morning looks like a huge disappointment. What does it mean for the franchise?

The answer in the short term is, not much, but the long-term story is more complicated.

First, it’s important to note that the film posted $185.5 million internationally this weekend, for a global total of $281.5 million as of the end of the day on Sunday. That’s on par with, or even slightly ahead of, the international debuts of Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman. (Comparisons for Thor are complicated by the fact that it rolled out over three weekends around the world.) It’s even having the biggest opening weekend of all time in Brazil. This is a bit of a reversal for the franchise, which has done a little better in the the domestic market than internationally, compared to Marvel.

A decent run on international markets would go a long way towards making up for weakness at home. By way of comparison, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opened with $62 million domestically, $208.4 million internationally, and ended up with close to $800 million worldwide by the end of its run. That kind of performance wouldn’t be enough to guarantee a profit for Justice League, given its reported $300 million budget, and another $200 million plus in marketing, but it would be close enough to declare victory.

With Aquaman already in post-production (and reportedly working on a much more modest budget), there’s no reason to change course at this stage, and Warner Bros. has some flexibility going forwards, although they will need to go into production soon on Shazam! to hit its April 5, 2019 release date. Clearly Wonder Woman 2 will happen in late 2019, so the only remaining question is whether to forge ahead with Justice League 2, or to put that on hold for a while. Waiting to see how Aquaman works out before committing another $500 million to a Justice League movie seems like the smartest approach.

In happier news, Wonder is doing much better than expected this weekend, and will land in second place with a projected $27 million. The family drama falls squarely into the category of film that people often tell me they wish Hollywood made more of, so a start like this should please a lot of people.

Two other films join Justice League in making the top 10 this weekend with averages over $10,000 per theater. Lady Bird will collect about $2.5 million from 238 theaters in its third weekend for 8th place. Right behind it, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is set for $1.115 million from just 53 locations, and an average over $20,000 per theater. A film that might have expected to join those two as breakout indie hits is Roman J. Israel, Esq., and it could still do so, although the odds are against it. An opening of $65,000 in four theaters is certainly good, but it’s only the 56th-best average of the year so far, and puts it in the company of films like A United Kingdom, The Lovers, and Wonderstruck—all good films that didn’t quite achieve the audiences they probably deserved.

- Weekend estimates
- DC Extended Universe franchise history
- Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise history

- Justice League Comparisons
- Wonder Comparisons
- The Star Comparisons
- Thor: Ragnarok Comparisons
- Daddy’s Home 2 Comparisons
- Murder on the Orient Express Comparisons
- A Bad Moms Christmas Comparisons
- Jigsaw Comparisons

Filed under: Weekend Box Office, Justice League, Wonder, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonderstruck, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Lady Bird, Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Extended Universe