‘Justice League’ Opening Expected to be Smaller than ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

The question was never “is Justice League going to make money,” but rather “is Justice League going to make enough money.”  While most major studio blockbusters based on popular source material — especially when they star a team of superheroes — can be expected to make despite itself, there are growing doubts as to whether DC’s latest feature, Justice League, can really close the deal with audiences.

After all, it’s not like the DCEU is known for being a wellspring of great movies.  Other than Wonder Woman — which is increasingly looking to be a fluke within its franchise — the latest batch of DC movies have been mercilessly lambasted by critics and increasingly snubbed by audiences.  Man of Steel divided Superman fans with what proved to be an incredibly controversial take on the Kryptonian superhero.  Batman v Superman was savaged for its haphazard storytelling, grimdark tone and psychopathic Batman.  Suicide Squad was not only one of the worst movies of 2016, but its marketing notoriously lied about what audiences could expect to see when they paid for a ticket to see it.

On top of its rotten franchise pedigree, the movie is allegedly so staggeringly expensive that it became increasingly clear that it might not even come close to making back what it cost to make.  With multiple rounds of reshoots that allegedly cost North of $25 million, the projected total for the movie’s budget is (somewhat conservatively) in the neighborhood of $300 million.  The industry-standard rule-of-thumb is that, between its marketing and distribution costs, a movie has to make back double its budget before it can even begin to turn a profit.  Assuming these figures to be accurate, it means that Justice League would have to make about $600 million in theaters before it would so much as break even.

Early predictions of the movie’s opening weekend assumed that it would make approximately $150 million in the US: a solid showing (although considerably less than The Avengers’ $207 million opening back in 2012).  Based on that number, it was further predicted that the movie would have stateside lifetime gross of $330 million.  All told, it was expected to be about as profitable as Batman v Superman and second only to Wonder Woman among the recent DC movie offerings.

Just before its release, however, things have changed.  Maybe due to its mixed to negative reviews, maybe due to fatigue setting in from its protracted and incredibly troubled production, but the movie is expected to fare considerably worse than first predicted.

Recent estimates put Justice League‘s three-day opening at only $110 million.  That’s less than both Thor: Ragnarok just two weeks ago ($122 million) and Batman v Superman last year ($166 million).  That resets predictions of its lifetime gross in US theaters to somewhat closer to $300 million: only about half of what it would need to break even with its excessive marketing and production costs.

That’s shocking, to say the very least, for industry onlookers who assumed that it would easily be one of the year’s financial success stories.  Or, at the very least, most assumed that it would beat out Thor: Ragnarok — whose title character has always been a second-tier Avenger — at the box office.  With its already impressive lead at the box office, not to mention its strong reviews and word of mouth extending its theatrical lifespan, it’s looking increasingly likely that the third Thor movie will make a great deal more than DC’s first big budget teamup on a mere fraction of its budget.

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