Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Half a decade ago, DC was riding high on an unprecedented tidal wave of critical and commercial acclaim. Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning Dark Knight trilogy fundamentally changed the kinds of conversations people were having about the superhero genre. And while people took Superman and Batman seriously decades prior, this was something new altogether: an undeniably adult, decidedly auteur, realistically shot thriller that had far more in common with police procedurals like The French Connection than with campy romps like Batman & Robin.
Today, DC’s latest blockbuster, the long-awaited Justice League, can’t even scrape by at the US box office. Opening to an exceptionally disappointing $94 million and unquestionably rotten reviews, the movie stands to sink everything that Warner Bros has tried to do with its comic book properties since The Avengers redrew the blockbuster landscape.
Despite constant reassurances that Justice League would finally be the DCEU entry to get things right, its troubled production, terrible forebears and horrendous word-of-mouth have ensured that audiences have stayed away from DC’s flagship teamup, even while they came out in spades two weeks back to see Thor: Ragnarok. As a result, Justice League is poised to lose as much as $100 million at the box office, shelving Aquaman might be a more financially sound move for Warner Bros than releasing it and everybody’s waiting for Flashpoint to reboot the whole enterprise in a couple of years.
One argument that I’ve seen circling around the remaining DCEU loyalists is that despite stumbling out of the gate, a strong 2nd week showing would save the movie’s financial prospects. After all, Thanksgiving is traditionally second only to Christmas in turns of theater turnout. If it could just survive the weekend, things might finally turn around for the franchise.
Unfortunately for Justice League, that isn’t looking to be the case. In fact, it looks as if it won’t even top the box office over the holiday weekend. Coco, Pixar’s enchanting new film about DÃa de los Muertos, is set to topple its beleaguered rival in its debut weekend.
Coco just barely edged out Justice League on Thanksgiving Day: taking in just North of $8.9 million, compared to its rival’s $8.4 million and change. By Monday morning, the weekend hauls for the two films will be similarly close, but with the same one on top. Coco is expected to lead with $70, with Justice League trailing it at $61 million.
Ultimately, these are narrow margins that the two films are working with, but the writing’s on the wall: Justice League‘s returns aren’t getting any better. Like Batman v Superman, its intense action raised a lot of concerns about its age-appropriateness for younger superhero fans despite its PG-13 rating, causing many concerned parents to not take their youngest to see the movie. And while Justice League has hovered around 40% on Rotten Tomatoes since its release, Coco sits at a commanding 96% (meaning that it is nearly universally liked by those who saw it).
Justice League is actually as much a victim of poor timing as it is of poor reviews. Coming out two weeks after the latest Marvel movie and a week before the latest Pixar movie, amidst a family holiday that doesn’t lend itself to DC’s ultra-violent “tough guy” branding, it had a shockingly narrow window in which to turn a profit, assuming audiences were even interested in showing up in the first place (which, as it turns out, they weren’t).
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