It all comes down to this.
Warner Bros. has been on the ropes for over a year, taking punches as flops like “Pan” and “Jupiter Ascending” piled up at the studio. Throughout the body blows, the company has held up DC Comics as its salvation. On Thursday, the studio unveils “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” a superhero match-up intended to kick off an ambitious series of interconnected comic book movies and serve as Warner Bros.’ answer to Disney’s Marvel universe. If it works, the trips to Neverland and Wachowski world will be forgiven. If it doesn’t, Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara will be feeling the heat.
“They need this one to be good,” said Eric Handler, an analyst at MKM Partners. “This is the birthing of a new DC universe. It leads to Wonder Woman and Justice League movies. It’s a very important film.”
Directed by Zack Snyder, the slo-mo aficionado behind “Man of “Steel,” and starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman, the film carries a whopping $250 million price tag. The gamble appears to have paid off. “Batman v Superman” is expected to generate as much as $150 million when it hits 4,200 screens domestically, and more than $300 million globally when it rolls out across more than 60 major territories, including China, the world’s second biggest market for film.
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“This is basically their ‘Avengers,'” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “There’s a ton of buzz about it. They need to open bigger than any DC Comics film ever has.”
It’s shaping up to be a massive weekend for Warner Bros., but there are some factors that could depress attendance. The terrorist attacks in Brussels that left at least 34 people dead and dozens injured may keep audiences away in parts of Europe with heightened security concerns. The film opens in Belgium on Wednesday.
That anxiety could find its way over to American audiences, as well. There is a precedent. Lionsgate cited terrorist attacks in Paris last fall as a reason that “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” underperformed at the box office.
Reviews are embargoed, but the picture is said to be dark. Affleck told the media that he would not take his son to the film because it could give him nightmares. That means that “Batman v Superman” might be off limits to families with younger children.
“Batman v. Superman” won’t be the weekend’s only new release. Universal will try to do a bit of counterprogramming, offering up “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” in approximately 3,130 North American theaters. The low-budget, 2002 original was a phenomenon, grossing $368 million at the global box office. The follow-up, which cost $18 million to produce, is looking at a $10 million debut.