Though it was once talked about in the same breath as The Avengers, this past weekend has been a sobering one for Warner Bros. executives after Justice League opened to a measly $94 million in North America.
It’s not a disaster by any means, but given Zack Snyder’s superhero tentpole had been tracking for $120 million prior to release, thereby lumping it in the same ballpark as Thor: Ragnarok ($127.7 million), Justice League hasn’t got off to the best of starts. And that’s really been the story for Warner’s mega-movie over the past few days, when the critical consensus deemed the CG-laden epic to be a “big, beautiful mess.” Ouch.
It gets worse, too. At $94 million, Justice League‘s domestic opening is now the lowest of any film in the DC Extended Universe. Man of Steel kicked things off in 2013 with $116.6 million, before Batman V Superman raised the game with $166m. Later that year, Suicide Squad closed out the summer with a bow of $133.7 million, while Wonder Woman managed to clear $103 million back in June.
It leaves the DCEU facing something of an “identity crisis,” as box-office analyst Jeff Bock tells The Hollywood Reporter:
While Marvel movies are now considered family entertainment, mostly because of their abundance of humor, DC films, outside of Wonder Woman, haven’t found the magical formula yet. In fact, the disappointing opening of Justice League only further cements how poorly Batman v. Superman was received. Nothing erodes a franchise or a brand faster than negative word of mouth. Justice League and the entire DC universe, outside of Wonder Woman, has an identity crisis.
Hamstrung by woeful reviews, Justice League now faces an uphill battle if it’s to ever reach box office glory. To its credit, the film is performing much better overseas thanks to a record-breaking $14.2 million debut in Brazil. This, coupled with other key international territories, has pushed the film’s total north of $280 million as of this writing, and Warner Bros. exec Jeff Goldstein is hoping for a strong second showing this Thanksgiving weekend.
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, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution.
Word of mouth is arguably one of the more powerful variables in determining a blockbuster’s success – just look at Deadpool, Logan, Wonder Woman and, more recently, It – so it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Justice League squeezes its way into Hollywood’s billion-dollar club. But time will tell.
Up next? Aquaman, which is poised to steer the DC Extended Universe toward Atlantis late next year.