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The box-office countdown has begun for Zack Snyder’s hotly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
On Thursday, the superhero movie debuted on tracking to huge numbers, suggesting an opening of $140 million over the March 25-27 weekend in North America, if not more, according to those with access to prerelease surveys. Warner Bros. insiders are being more cautious in suggesting a range of $110 million on the lower end.
Either way, the tentpole — introducing Ben Affleck as the newest Batman and featuring Henry Cavill in his second turn as Superman — should rank among the top 10 domestic openings of all time for a comic book adaptation.
The big question is whether Dawn of Justice, costing at least $250 million to make, can open on par with or ahead of the R-rated Deadpool, which stunned Hollywood when launching last month to $132.4 million over the three-day Presidents Day weekend. (Deadpool‘s four-day haul was $152.2 million.)
One big difference: Dawn of Justice, which sports a friendlier PG-13 rating, runs two hours and 31 minutes, meaning fewer show times. Deadpool‘s running time is one hour and 48 minutes.
In terms of March openings, The Hunger Games holds the record, with $152.5 million.
The strength of Batman v Superman on tracking is great news for Warner Bros, which is counting on Snyder’s tentpole to turn its fortunes around at the box office. It’s also a defining moment in the studio’s campaign to compete with Marvel’s cinematic universe.
Snyder’s first Superman movie, Man of Steel, launched with $116.6 million in June 2013. Warners had originally planned to open Dawn of Justice on May 6, the official beginning of the summer at the box office, but relocated the film when Marvel staked out the May date for Captain America: Civil War.
Batman v Superman will get the widest release possible as it capitalizes on the Easter corridor and kids being out school, both in the U.S. and overseas. The movie will be one of the few tentpoles to open virtually everywhere at the same time, including China. The one exception is Poland, where theaters are closed on Good Friday.
In terms of its global opening, Snyder’s movie should fly past $300 million in its first weekend. And if China is strong, Batman v Superman could gross north of $350 million.
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