Weekend Box Office: 'Justice League' Opens to Dismal $94M; 'Wonder' Amazes

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
'Justice League'

The superhero mashup is a major blow for the DC Extended Universe, at least in North America, while pulling in a stronger $185.5 million overseas for a global launch of $281.5 million.

The world's most famous superheroes seemingly lost their powers over the weekend as Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment's big-budget Justice League opened to a sorely disappointing $94 million in North America, while a small feel-good movie named Wonder stole the box-office thunder with $27.1 million after galvanizing elementary school kids across the country.

On Sunday, estimates showed Justice League debuting to $96 million, but the final number came in lower.

Justice League posted the lowest domestic opening of any title in the DC Extended Universe, which has yet to match the consistent success of rival Marvel Studios. The superhero mashup is faring better overseas, where it debuted to $185.5 million from 65 markets, including $51.7 million in China, for a global bow of $281.5 million (it had been expected to take in $325 million-plus). The pic is doing notable business in Latin America, including Brazil, where it scored the biggest debut of all time ($14.2 million).

In North America, Justice League had been tracking to bow to at least $110 million. Even that wouldn't have been a rousing start for a marquee superhero title intended to rival Marvel Studios' Avengers franchise by assembling together Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. (In 2012, The Avengers launched to a then-record $204.7 million domestically, followed by $191.3 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015).

"Our path to box-office success is different than what we thought. Given the extremely lucrative Thanksgiving week, we have a chance to hold audiences and ultimately come in at a good level," says Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution.

Justice League, dinged by poor reviews and a mediocre B+ CinemaScore, didn't come close to matching the $122.7 million domestic bow of Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok two weeks ago. It's the first time in history that two major studio superhero films have opened so close together (in summer, it is commonplace for tentpoles of all genres to open only a week apart). Internationally, Thor: Ragnarok opened ahead of Justice League in most regions.

Justice League, playing in 4,051 North American theaters, stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Jesse Eisenberg and Willem Dafoe.

Following the success of Wonder Woman, Warners heavily promoted Gadot's appearance in Justice League, but many females appear to be staying away. Males made up 63 percent of ticket buyers, according to PostTrak (that compares to 57 percent male for Thor).

Wonder Woman opened to $103 million this summer. Among other DCEU titles, Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted to $166 million domestically in 2016, while Suicide Squad took in $133.7 million that same year. The DCEU series kicked off in 2013 with Man of Steel's $116.6 million debut.

Justice League was beset with challenges, most notably when Snyder turned over directing duties to Avengers helmer Joss Whedon in order to deal with a family tragedy. Whedon, who penned the Justice League script with Chris Terrio, oversaw extensive reshoots that resulted in the final production budget coming in between $250 million-$300 million.

Director Stephen Chbosky's Wonder, which placed second, came in well ahead of expectations after strong reviews and a coveted A+ CinemaScore. The $20 million film adaptation of R.J. Palacio's acclaimed children's novel tells the story of a young boy with a facial deformity who attends a mainstream school for the first time (the book spawned the "Choose Kind" movement).

Lionsgate, Participant Media, Walden Media and Mandeville Films partnered on Wonder, which stars Julia Roberts, Room breakout actor Jacob Tremblay and Owen Wilson.

Lionsgate's marketing team aggressively targeted elementary schools, a move that is paying off, with higher-than-usual group ticket sales. Wonder's performance is notable in an age when many midrange films get lost at the box office due to competition from Netflix and other platforms.

"We had a beautiful book that had become part of the curriculum in many schools. And we had a beautiful movie that ended up getting an A+ CinemaScore. It hit every chord," says Lionsgate chief brand officer and president of worldwide marketing Tim Palen. "When you have all that gas in the tank, it can get you very far."

Thor: Ragnarok followed at No. 3 with $21.8 million in its third outing for a domestic total of $247.7 million. Overseas, it earned another $24.8 million for $738.1 million globally. (Fellow Disney and Pixar title Coco continued to impress in Mexico, where it has become the top-grossing film of all time with $48.4 million to date.)

Paramount's holiday comedy Daddy's Home 2 placed No. 4 with $14.8 million for a 10-day domestic total of $50.6 million.

Fox's Murder on the Orient Express, likewise in its second weekend, rounded out the top five with $13.8 million for a domestic tally of $51.7 million. The film grossed another $20.7 million overseas for $96.5 million internationally and $148.2 million globally. China leads offshore ($30.4 million), followed by the U.K. ($23.1 million).

Sony/Affirm's faith-based animated family movie The Star, which nabbed an A CinemaScore, opened to $10 million. Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key and Oprah Winfrey lend their voices to the pic, which tells the Nativity story through the eyes of animals. Affirm produced The Star with Sony Pictures Animation, Walden, Franklin Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company.

Among specialty titles vying for awards love, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird moved up the chart to No. 8 as it expanded into a total of 238 theaters, earning $2.5 million for an impressive screen average of $10,630 and a cume of $4.7 million for A24.

Fox Searchlight's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, starring Frances McDormand, also continued to impress. Moving into the top 10, the movie earned $1.1 million from 53 theaters for a screen average of $21,038 and a 10-day tally of $1.5 million.

Among new openers at the specialty box office, the Denzel Washington-starrer Roman J. Israel, Esq. opened to muted numbers. The Sony movie grossed $65,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a screen average of $16,250. Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) directed the legal thriller.

Nov. 19, 8 a.m. Updated with foreign grosses for Justice League.
Nov. 20, 8 a.m. Updated with final domestic gross for Justice League.

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