The latest predictions for Justice League‘s opening weekend are in and, at least on the surface, things couldn’t look better. Justice League is looking at a $150 million opening weekend and a $330 million lifetime gross at the US box office. That puts it dead even with Batman v Superman and trailing only Wonder Woman among DCEU films.
The problem is, no matter what it seems like at a glance, that would be an incredibly disappointing return on Warner Bros’ considerable investment in the film. Although there’s no denying that Batman v Superman emptied out a lot of movie-goers’ wallets, it was a flash in the pan at the box office: taking in roughly 2/3 of its total gross in its first week and virtually disappearing from theaters entirely in about a month. Its week-to-week box office drop-off was so sharp (its second weekend earned less than a third of its first) that an entire new measure for a movie’s success started to be used to account for it.
As a rule of thumb, a movie only starts turning a profit when it earns back double its production budget. While this might seem excessive, the costs of advertising (especially for big, studio-driven blockbusters) and distribution are significant: equaling or eclipsing the actual cost of the movie itself. And while we won’t know the final bill on Justice League until Warner Bros files their taxes, we can make an educated guess based off of what we know Batman v Superman set them back by.
Although likely close, Justice League — even before its unprecedentedly extensive reshoots — undoubtedly cost more than than DC’s 2016 superhero slugfest. Not only does it employ all three of that movie’s key players (Henry Cavill, Ben Affeck and Gal Gadot), it also features the presumably well-compensated actors composing the rest of the titular league (Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher). Add an extra $25 million to BvS‘s $250 million price tag, however, and you should end up with something close to it.
So if Justice League cost in the neighborhood of $275 million, it would need to net at least $550 million before it so much as breaks even (to say nothing of its international advertising and distribution costs). And, in all likelihood, the real value they’d need to pass will be significantly higher, owing to their expanded cast size and especially strong marketing push.
Its expected lifetime gross clocks in at a whopping $220 million under that number, meaning that at things currently stand, Justice League‘s box office intake won’t come close to covering the check that Warner Bros wrote for it. And if word of its troubled production, doubts about Warner Bros’ commitment to the franchise or negative reviews (which have plagued every DCEU movie save for Wonder Woman) keep audiences out of theaters, it could very well prove to be one of the least profitable movies of the entire year. At this point, simply breaking even would be a miracle.
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