As the dust settles on Batman v Superman’s fourth weekend, things aren’t looking so good. Each week it seems to drop even more, breaking new records and spelling death for the DCEU. Sure, after a VOD release and a couple more weeks in theatres it will make some profit, but this is far below what the studio wanted.
This underperformance raises a lot of questions: Should DC continue their cinematic universe? Should Zack Synder be kicked off the upcoming Justice League (yes he should)? And what does this failure mean for superhero movies as whole?
But there is another questions that is seemingly being ignored about Batman v Superman's box office performance, a question that should shape the way the DCEU (as they insist on calling it) operates from this point forward; Is Superman actually a box office draw?
3, even 2 years ago this question would have seemed obvious. It’s Superman, how could he not be? But with the underperformance of Batman v Superman, and a look at how the Man of Steel has been performing as of late, it becomes a little more hard to answer.
Now to address this question, I think we have to properly define what a box office draw is. Many simply think of this word as meaning a brand name that can make money, but I think we need to look at the word in a different way.
A real box office draw is someone who can bring people in even if the movie is badly received. This is because, despite the bad word of mouth and terrible reviews, people have still chosen to go and watch it, just to see the character.
Batman, for example, can make this claim. No matter how terrible Batman and Robin was, it still managed to make over 230m worldwide, making it Warner Bros biggest grosses ever for that year. It made that money purely on the strength of the character, and wasn’t stopped by the atrocious reaction the film received.
Getting audiences in on good reviews isn't enough, any unknown property can do that, the character has to be able to do it in spite of critical hatred, to really be able to take this title.
And can Superman make this claim? Well, the short answer is no. Any Superman movie that has had even a shred of dislike has either bombed or very badly under-performed. Superman 4, basically this character's Batman and Robin, failed to even come close to its minuscule 17m budget, grossing only 15m.
It had equally negative reviews as Batman and Robin, and was again the fourth entry in the series, but this time the audience didn't care enough about the character to show up.
This was seen again, when, in 2006, Superman Returns absolutely collapsed worldwide due to poor word of mouth. The film made only 390m on a 200m budget, a huge loss for the studio at the time.
And, the thing is, the film wasn't even badly received. It held a respectable 76% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7/10 average score, it was just the hate from the fans that turned audiences away. When simple twitter backlash is enough to kill a Superman movie, the box office power of the character becomes doubtful.
But let's focus on the positives; like Man of Steel, right? Well, not exactly. Although the gigantically budgeted reboot did perform decently to the tune of 668m worldwide, when the environment that the film was released in is taken into consideration, the results appear to be a little less super.
Man of Steel was released at the heyday of superhero franchises. Just that year Iron Man 3 made over 1.2 billion worldwide, and Thor was clocking over 640m. This should have been the perfect time for Superman to soar to Marvel level box-office heights, yet it stayed put around the “decent performance” range.
Man of Steel made less worldwide than (deep breath) The Amazing Spiderman 1 and 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Deadpool, X-Men: DOFP and all 3 original Spiderman movies, just to name a few.
With a character as popular as Superman it should have easily crossed over these lesser known heroes, yet it sits far below them. So, even the success of Man of Steel has to be taken with a grain of salt, as it shows that even at his height Superman is no match for a multitude of other characters.
So, looking at all the evidence, it seems doubtful that Superman is actually a box-office draw. He can’t get audiences in when he gets even a little criticism, and even when he manages to break out, his numbers pale in comparison to almost all other superheroes.
I know it seems impossible, but Superman might just not be a draw for audiences. But I’m not going to say this definitively, so it’s up to you to look at the evidence and decide for yourself whether this is true or not.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and, if you enjoyed this article, check back later to see when I post a new one.