LOS ANGELES — “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” may have been a flop with the critics, but its domination of box offices around the world was exactly what Warner Bros. needed.
Coming off a year in which it had its lowest share of the movie market since 2006 — and with parent Time Warner Inc.’s stock on a slide — the studio needed director Zack Snyder’s superhero tentpole not just to recoup its more than $250 million production budget, but get moviegoers around the world excited about its DC Comics cinematic universe, which has nine more films in the pipeline.
But after a blistering series of reviews where the two-and-a-half-hour movie was ripped apart for being “not as bad as Bush v. Gore, but close,” in the words of the Chicago Reader’s J.R. Jones — and getting a dismal 30 percent rating on movie critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes — “Batman v Superman” delivered where it counted: at the box office.
The film reeled in more than $82 million in the United States, for the fourth-biggest opening day ever. It also made $115 million internationally — showing that the millions of Batman and Superman fans aren’t going to let the opinions of film critics get in the way of their weekend plans.
E. Barry Haldeman, a former Paramount Pictures executive who now works as a lawyer in private practice in Los Angeles, said the DC Comics “fanboy” base could be counted on to show up no matter what the critics said. But he also said the studio had rolled out all the stops to make sure it played well outside Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne’s native America. The overseas market is increasingly important for visual-heavy superhero films where little gets lost in translation.
“They seem to have done everything they can possibly do,” Haldeman told International Business Times. “They’ve flown the stars to London and to China.”
The movie, which stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Amy Adams, held its premiere in London, not Hollywood. And even though Tuesday's Brussels attacks preempted the planned red carpet, those promotional trips seem to have translated into packed theaters. “Batman v Superman” had a $20 million opening in China — the biggest ever for a Warner Bros. movie there — and $9 million in Britain, where the iconic comic book characters remain hugely popular.
The reception in China, which could become the world’s largest movie market as soon as 2017, is especially important, as the country’s been adding Imax and other premium format screens at a rapid clip. Movies heavy on action and special effects, such as “Jurassic World” and “Fast and Furious 7,” have been monster hits in China, and they tend to play even better on huge Imax-type screens. Dalian Wanda Group, owner of China’s biggest theater chain — and the world’s No. 1 Imax customer — bought a majority stake in “Jurassic World” production company Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion earlier this year.
Brad Brevet of BoxOfficeMojo reported that rival studios are projecting the movie to roll to an opening weekend of between $165 million and $172 million, which would be the biggest March opening ever and in the top 10 all time. However, he did say that its “B” rating on CinemaScore, which measures audience — not critic — reaction to films, should cause its performance to dip Saturday.