Box Office: 5 Reasons 'Batman v. Superman' Defied Dismal Reviews to Land Record Opening

"Putting these two iconic characters in a celebrity death match of sorts was a truly irresistible and compelling concept," says one box-office analyst, while another predicts the "aftermath might be rotten eggs."

Talk about a superpower to deflect bullets.

Over Easter weekend, Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted to a record March opening of $170.1 million in North America, the No. 6 opening of all time and the fourth-best for a comic-book adaptation behind three Marvel titles, not accounting for inflation. And overseas, it flew to $254 million from 66 markets for a global debut of $424.1 million, the No. 1 showing of all time for a superhero adaptation and the fourth-biggest for any title.

Put another way: Batman and Superman have never looked so buff in terms of box-office performance, even though Batman v. Superman had to battle withering reviews and a ho-hum B CinemaScore in the U.S. (every other superhero movie to open at these levels has received a variation of an A grade). Some fanboys were even quick to flood social media with the dismissive nickname "Batman v. Superman: Yawn of Justice."

So how did Batman v. Superman do it? The Hollywood Reporter points to five reasons why the pic, starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, was able to prevail and deliver a mega-opening for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment as they launch their superhero cinematic universe. The big question now is how well the tentpole will hold up, since word of mouth and a poor Rotten Tomatoes score can have sizable influence. (The score for Batman v. Superman is a woeful 29 percent approval, compared to 56 percent for Snyder's Man of Steel.)

1. Batman and Superman proved an irresistible pairing (oh, and Wonder Woman, too)

Batman v. Superman marks the first time the world's two most popular superheroes appeared together on the big screen, while the movie also marks the feature film debut of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).

"The opening weekend of Batman v. Superman was always going to be critic-proof — this is a film for fans of all ages of the iconic comic book characters," says box-office analyst Jeff Bock. "However, the key element here is successive weekends, which will likely suffer greatly. As it stands, Batman v. Superman will likely drop like a rock in its second weekend. Easter was golden for Batman v. Superman, but the aftermath might be rotten eggs. Positive reviews would have eased the drop."

Adds comScore's Paul Dergarabedian, another analyst: "For moviegoers, all the naysayers and negative reviews were like your annoying aunt who tells you to eat your veggies because they are better for you than that yummy candy bar. You know she’s right, but you will still want to eat the damn candy bar. The reviews at this point had zero impact. Putting these two iconic characters in a celebrity death match of sorts was a truly irresistible and compelling concept. The audience decided this one with their hearts and their gut, not someone else’s opinion. How could you not want to see this movie if you are a superhero fan?"

2. The movie opened everywhere at the same time, including China

Batman v. Superman had the good fortune to open around the world at the same time, something few tentpoles are able to do because of the vagaries of scheduling so many foreign markets. That's especially true when it comes to China, where most Hollywood films open after their U.S. launch. Batman v. Superman made a strong showing in China with $57.3 million. Another recent film that opened nearly everywhere at the same time was Universal's Jurassic World, which bowed to $524.9 million in summer 2015, including $99 million in the Middle Kingdom.

Batman v. Superman made an impressive showing offshore, as it did in North America. In most markets, it was the top opening of all time for a DC Entertainment superhero movie, beating Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. And in some territories, it even beat various Harry Potter installments to set a new benchmark for a Warner Bros. movie.

3. Fanboy fever

Exit polls conducted by comScore's PostTrak service on Saturday showed that fanboys made up a large chunk of the audience. More than 66 percent of ticket buyers were male, while 63 percent of the audience was between the ages of 18 and 34. Older moviegoers, who are arguably more influenced by reviews, were more skeptical. Only 6 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 44, and only 3 percent over the age of 55.

4. A rising tide lifts all boats

Thanks to tentpoles including Jurassic World, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Deadpool — Fox's irreverent, R-rated superhero movie that's made $745 million since its February debut — people who had been staying away from the multiplex are getting back in the habit of going to the movies for big event titles, according to Bock and Dergarabedian.

5. Warner Bros. landed a perfect release date

Originally, Batman v. Superman was supposed to open on May 6 of this year, but its release date was pushed up in order to avoid a showdown with Disney and Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. As it turned out, it was a smart move, since there is far less competition in spring. Plus, the studio got to capitalize on the Easter holiday weekend. Nor did it hurt that Lionsgate's The Divergent Series: Allegiant, which opened a week ago, quickly bombed.

BvS broke a number of records in its takeoff, including the biggest Easter weekend of all time and the biggest March opening, blowing past the $152.2 million debut of The Hunger Games.

"It helped to be one of the big first films of the year, and going out earlier helped us get a day-and-date release in China," said Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president of worldwide distribution at Warner Bros. "And in summer, we would have much more competition in the successive weekends."

comments powered by Disqus