The commercial failure of Justice League followed by the success of Aquaman sent a clear message to Warner Bros. about the kind of DC adaptations they’d do well to invest in, with chairman Toby Emmerich saying last month that the studio is currently focused on standalone projects, rather than crossover movies.
But while we shouldn’t expect a Justice League 2 to be announced anytime soon, Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara has suggested that they may still try their luck with another major crossover movie somewhere down the line, explaining the situation to the LA Times as follows:
“The upcoming slate, with Shazam!, Joker, Wonder Woman 1984, and Birds of Prey, feels like we’re on the right track. We have the right people in the right jobs working on it.
The universe isn’t as connected as we thought it was going to be five years ago. You’re seeing much more focus on individual experiences around individual characters. That’s not to say we won’t at some point come back to that notion of a more connected universe. But it feels like that’s the right strategy for us right now.”
Comparing the box office figures for Aquaman and Justice League, it’s hard to argue with Tsujihara that an emphasis on standalone flicks feels like the right strategy for the time being. That being said, if these next few movies fare well enough with fans and filmgoers, then the cinematic universe may finally have a sturdy foundation for an Avengers-style crossover flick.
While the pre-Justice League DCEU releases tended to fare well commercially, it was clear that the franchise didn’t have a whole load of momentum behind it, as evidenced by the historic drop in revenue suffered by Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice on its second weekend. Indeed, by the time Justice League came out, the cinematic universe could no longer sustain itself on name recognition alone, and so a film starring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman did the unthinkable and flopped.
Nonetheless, with Aquaman grossing $1.1 billion at the global box office, it’s clear that the DCEU is in a commercially stronger place right now, and if Shazam!, Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984, The Batman, Aquaman 2, and the rest of the franchise’s release slate can maintain the interest of the public, then filmgoers may some day start asking to see these various sectors of the cinematic universe overlap once more.