Despite the pounding it took from critics, Warner Bros.’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice took in $170.1 million in North America and $254 million oversees on its opening weekend, bringing squeals of jubilation from studio executives that drowned out the collective moans and groans of the wags.
“Not only did [director] Zack Snyder’s superhero epic set a new record for the all-time biggest March opening, obliterating The Hunger Games’ $152.5 million, but Batman v Superman now stands as the sixth biggest opening of all time. It also squeaked by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($169.2 million) to earn Warner Bros.’ biggest opening ever,” writes Devan Coggan for EW.com.
“Audiences flocked to see the battle between Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill), which also introduced Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot),” writesUSA Today’s Bryan Alexander. Other starpower in the flick includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg as villain Lex Luthor, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White and Jeremy Irons as Alfred, the chauffeur.
“Warner, which spent roughly $400 million to make and market Dawn of Justice, described the box office results as ‘phenomenal,’ ‘sensational’ and ‘fantastic,’” Brooks Barnes writes for the New York Times, pointing out that “domestic ticket sales [were] fueled by higher-priced Imax, premium large-format theaters and RealD 3-D screenings….”
But all of those exclamatory words came only after the moguls were able to exhale, reports Ben Fritz in the Wall Street Journal.
“The studio has seen a number of high-profile bombs in the past year, including In The Heart of the Sea, Pan and Jupiter Ascending. For many on its Burbank, Calif., lot, the mantra for the past several months has been to wait until March,” Fritz writes.
“This wasn’t just launching one film, it was launching 10,” Warner’s EVP of domestic distribution, Jeff Goldstein, tells him.
As the first of a planned 10-movie “‘cinematic universe’ of interconnected superhero movies,” explains the NYT’s Barnes, “Snyder’s bleak Dawn of Justice was designed as the creative foundation for a multibillion-dollar string of films featuring the likes of Wonder Woman and Aquaman.”
The Los Angeles Times’s Tre’vell Anderson reports that “146 reviewers on the critic site Rotten Tomatoes gave the PG-13 picture a measly 33% positive rating” going into the weekend. “Sunday, the positive rating had decreased to just 29%, with 262 reviews being counted,” he reports. “But audiences on the whole disagreed. Moviegoers gave the DC Comics adaptation a respectable B grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Those younger than 25 gave it a B-plus; those under 18 gave it an A-minus.”
“It was such a disconnect with what the critics were writing because the fans were interested,” Goldstein tells him. “This movie was made for a global fan base, and the fans embraced it in such a big way.”
“No one cared about the reviews — they didn't matter,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian tellsUSA Today’s Bryan Alexander. “People just wanted to see this movie and this classic matchup between two titans of the superhero universe.”
Oh, yeah. A massive marketing push, backed by a reported $150 million global budget, didn’t hurt either.
“Warner Bros. spent a superhero-sized $28 million on national TV trailer spots in the U.S. … prior to the film's release, more than was shelled out for fellow tentpoles Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Age of Ultron, according to iSpot.tv estimates,” alone reports Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter. “The might of the marketing push for Batman v Superman underscores how Warner Bros. left nothing to chance in promoting Zack Snyder's movie.”
One way it boosted audiences in China is by fully utilizing its “Audience Ambassador,” Li Yifeng, a 28-year-old mega pop star who “rocketed to fame after appearing on the American Idol-like Chinese talent show, “My Hero,” Abe Sauer reports in Brandchannel.
China Audience Ambassador is “an official diplomatic position created by Hollywood films in the hopes of persuading Chinese audiences to go see U.S. films in China,” Sauer writes. Li Yifeng, for example, joined the stars and director of the film on stage at the premiere in Beijing and spoke to the media and fans about the film.