Box-Office Preview: 'Justice League' Hopes for $110M-Plus U.S. Debut
In another key test for DC Entertainment's extended universe, Justice League is hoping to clear $110 million in its North American box-office debut this weekend.
That would mark a strong, but not superheroic, start for a big-budget tentpole that once hoped to emulate the success of Marvel Studios' Avengers franchise by assembling the likes of Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in one movie.
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Justice League is opening simultaneously in most major markets overseas, including China, for a projected global launch upwards of $325 million. It grossed $8.5 million on Wednesday from its first seven markets, including select previews. In Brazil, where it was a holiday, the pic raked in $3.7 million, the biggest opening day ever for a Hollywood title.
Warners has not disclosed the production budget of Justice League.
In late May, Zack Snyder turned over directing duties (to deal with a family tragedy) of the film to Joss Whedon, who penned the script with Chris Terrio. Whedon previously helmed both The Avengers (2012), which opened to a then-record $207.4 million domestically, and sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), which launched to $191.3 million in North America.
Gadot's appearance in Justice League is expected to boost results after the blockbuster performance of Wonder Woman this summer. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman enjoyed an extraordinary run after opening to $103.3 million domestically in early June, topping out at $822 million globally.
Two weekends ago, Marvel and Disney's critically acclaimed Thor: Ragnarok debuted to a rousing $122 million domestically on its way to earning more than $660 million to date at the worldwide box office.
So far, Justice League reviews have been mixed. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy wrote that "you get the feeling it was a chore to make, so it's a chore to sit through, too." The movie's score on Rotten Tomatoes had been delayed, but late on Wednesday it was a less-than-stellar 43 percent and its Metacritic score was 49.
Justice League follows Batman and Wonder Woman as they mourn the death of Superman following the events of Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which opened to $166 million domestically in March 2016) and ready themselves to face a new foe in Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Together, they construct a new team.
Family drama Wonder, starring Julia Roberts, and animated faith-based movie The Star are looking to do much more modest business in their debuts.
Wonder, based on the children's book by R.J. Palacio about a boy with a deformed face, is tracking to open in the $9 million range. The film — with a current rating of 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — could have especially strong legs throughout the holidays as kids become available. (Palacio's novel sparked the "Choose Kind" movement.)
Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay also star in Wonder, which was produced by Lionsgate, Participant Media, Walden Media and Mandeville Films. Stephen Chbosky directed from a script by Steve Conrad.
The producers have courted elementary schools with a resource guide for Wonder and a robust screening program.
The Star, likewise targeting families, is the latest offering from Sony's Affirm label and tells the story of the Nativity through the eyes of animals. There's Bo the donkey, a sheep who has lost her flock, a dove, three-wisecracking camels and eccentric stable animals, all of whom become unlikely heroes in the birth of Jesus. Timothy Reckart directed. Affirm partnered with Sony Pictures Animation, Walden, Franklin Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company on the film.
Star is projected to open to $7 million.
Nov. 16, 9:20 a.m. Updated with foreign grosses.
by Graeme McMillan