By Phil Contrino
Fanboys rejoice! Warner Bros. officially announced at ComicCon that 2015 will bring the union of Superman and Batman in a new film directed by Man of Steel-helmer Zack Snyder. A Flash Gordon film is tentatively set for 2016 with a Justice League movie to follow in 2017.
WB's decision to work its way to a Justice League movie is a no-brainer after the massive success of Disney's The Avengers, a $1.5 billion worldwide hit that helped the superhero genre reach a new high at the box office. Will WB be able to beat Disney at the superhero game by leading either its Superman/Batman project or the Justice League project to a higher worldwide haul than The Avengers
First, they'll have to compete with The Avengers 2, which is already slated to open on May 1, 2015. WB will have to be careful to avoid a direct confrontation or else there's a risk of moviegoers experiencing superhero fatigue. (Some would argue this risk is already a reality with the continued reliance of studios on superhero tentpoles.) As if the Avengers 2 challenge wasn't enough, picking a release date will also prove difficult because 2015's slate is already full of very strong tentpole films such as a new Pirates of the Caribbean film, the next James Bond flick, the finale of the Hunger Games franchise and the sequel to Finding Nemo, just to name a few. Most importantly, Disney is still planning to release the new Star Wars movie at some point in 2015. It's worth noting that July 17, 2015 is currently open. WB released The Dark Knight on July 18, 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012, so that release date could be very enticing.
The casting of Batman will definitely have a major impact on the box office performance of these films. Moviegoers embraced Christian Bale in the role in a major way. If Bale decides not to return--and he's made that clear more than once--then many fans could be disappointed. The alternative--hinted at in a not-so-subtle way in The Dark Knight Rises--would be to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt take on the role. JGL playing the role wouldn't be the end of the world, but Bale is definitely the preferable choice both creatively and financially--even if he does command a massive salary for suiting up as the Caped Crusader again. Making these movies without Bale wouldn't be as off-putting as making Avengers 2 without Robert Downey Jr., but it would be close. Disney wisely curbed any thoughts that Downey Jr. wouldn't return by bringing him back on board with a nice payday. WB should also do what it can to bring Bale back.
The overseas potential of a Batman/Superman film is enormous. For proof, look no further than how much the Dark Knight franchise grew overseas. 2008's The Dark Knight took in $468.6 million and four years later The Dark Knight Rises' overseas tally shot up to $631.2 million. Man of Steel has already raked in $337.3 million overseas.
Any conversation about the potential of a 2015 release wouldn't be complete without mentioning China. Based on the current growth rate, it's not hard to imagine that the total Chinese box office could reach $5 billion in 2015. Even though some analysts from China believe that many Chinese moviegoers are getting sick of American superheros, there's still room in a market that big for a Superman/Batman film to rake in a healthy haul. Man of Steel is currently up to more than $63 million in China, an improvement over the $55.6 million haul of The Dark Knight Rises. A modest goal of $100 million in China for the Superman/Batman film is a cautious point to start expectations at.
Here's today's official press release:
BURBANK, CA, July 20, 2013 - On the heels of the worldwide success of "Man of Steel," director Zack Snyderis bringing together the two greatest Super Heroes of all time-Batman and Superman-for the first time on the big screen. The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution,Warner Bros. Pictures.
The current hit, "Man of Steel," has taken in more than $630 million at the worldwide box office to date, and climbing. Along with its star, Henry Cavill, the upcomingfilm brings back Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. The new Batman has yet to be cast.
Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who will then pen the screenplay. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with an anticipated release date inSummer 2015.
Silverman stated, "Zack Snyder is an incredibly talented filmmaker, but beyond that, he's a fan first and he utterly gets this genre. We could not think of anyone better suited to the task of bringing these iconic Super Heroes to the screen in his own way." Kroll added, "We are thrilled to be back in business with Zack and his team on this next movie. The success of ‘Man of Steel' is a wonderful testament to the love and support that both fans and new audiences, worldwide, have for these characters. We are very excited to see what Zack has in store for all of us."
Diane Nelson, President, DC Entertainment, noted,"Superman and Batman together on the big screen is a dream come true for DC fans everywhere. All of us at DCEntertainment could not be more excited for Zack's continuing vision for the DC Universe."
Zack Snyder, who made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con today, breaking the news to audiences there, later said, "I'm so excited to begin working again with Henry Cavill in the world we created, and I can't wait to expand the DC Universe in this next chapter. Let's face it, it's beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off, since they are the greatest Super Heroes in the world."
The new film brings back Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder as producers. This time, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers, along with Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan.
Thomas offered, "Whilst our ‘Dark Knight' trilogy is complete, we have every confidence that Zack's fresh interpretation will take the character in a new and exciting direction. His vision for Superman opened the door to a whole new universe and we can't wait to see what Zack does with these characters."
The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Batman characters created by Bob Kane, published by DC Entertainment.
Sunday Update: Warner's The Conjuring easily led the weekend box office with an estimated $41.5 million. The R-rated horror film exceeded its rising pre-release expectations and performed especially well with its modest price tag in mind. The Conjuring opened 22 percent stronger than the recent $34.06 million debut of The Purge. The film's $17.03 million Friday start (which included an estimated $3.3 million from late night shows on Thursday) was in the same neighborhood as the $16.78 million Friday debut of The Purge (which included $3.4 million from late night Thursday shows), but The Conjuring held up far stronger throughout its opening weekend than The Purge did. The estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio for The Conjuring stands at 2.44 to 1, as opposed to the 2.03 to 1 ratio of The Purge. That is a strong early sign for The Conjuring going forward, as high profile horror films are typically far more front-loaded towards Friday than that during opening weekend.
Strong reviews and early word of mouth are clearly helping The Conjuring and it appears that the film's subject matter and strong marketing campaign are helping it appeal to more causal horror fans to begin with. The Conjuring received an A- rating on CinemaScore, which is especially strong for a horror film. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards female moviegoers (53 percent) and fairly heavily towards moviegoers over 25 years old (59 percent).
As was widely expected, Universal's Despicable Me 2 was able to hold off the weekend's other three wide releases to take second place for the frame. The computer animated blockbuster from Illumination Entertainment fell 43 percent to gross an estimated $25.1 million. That represented one of the weekend's better holds among wide releases, which is a sign that the film is now stabilizing by family film standards, especially given the new competition it faced from fellow computer animated film Turbo. Despicable Me 2 has grossed a massive $276.2 million in 19 days, making it the third highest grossing release of 2013 domestically thus far. The film will soon overtake Warner's Man of Steel for second place on the list.
Fox's Turbo debuted in third place with an estimated $21.5 million. The latest computer animated film from DreamWorks Animation debuted towards the lower end of expectations, which were already relatively low for a DreamWorks Animation release due in large part to the film arriving on the scene so shortly after Despicable Me 2. Since its debut on Wednesday, Turbo has grossed $31.20 million in its first five days of release. That is a slim 3.5 percent below the $32.34 million five-day start of last November's Rise of the Guardians (which also opened on a Wednesday). Turbo did receive a very promising A rating on CinemaScore, though the film's long term prospects could be limited by upcoming competition from both Sony's The Smurfs 2 and Disney's Planes in the near future.
Opening a bit below Turbo was Lionsgate's Red 2. The Bruce Willis led action sequel debuted in fifth place with an estimated $18.5 million. That was slightly below expectations and was 15 percent softer than the $21.76 million start of 2010's Red. Given its nature as sequel, Red 2 is likely to be more front-loaded going forward than Red was, though it could still display strong holding power of its own, especially given just how strong Red held up during its run. The film opened with $6.35 million on Friday (which included $0.80 million from late night Thursdays shows), giving it an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.91 to 1. Red 2 received a B+ rating on CinemaScore. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards male moviegoers (52 percent) and heavily towards moviegoers over the age of 35 (67 percent).
Coming as no real surprise, Universal's R.I.P.D. delivered the weekend's poorest start among new wide releases. The big-budget action comedy starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds debuted with a very disappointing estimated seventh place take of $12.76 million. That was 22 percent below the $16.31 million debut of last year's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. R.I.P.D. opened with $4.8 million on Friday (which included $0.77 million from late night Thursday shows), giving it an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.66 to 1. Long term prospects don't look encouraging for the film either, especially given its lackluster C+ CinemaScore rating and that being adapted from a comic book should lead to additional front-loading to begin with. The audience breakdown for R.I.P.D. skewed towards male moviegoers (53 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 and older (57 percent).
In its second weekend of release, Sony's Grown Ups 2 fell two spots and a respectable 52 percent to claim fourth with an estimated $20.0 million. In comparison, 2010's Grown Ups fell 53 percent in its second weekend to gross $19.05 million. With a solid ten-day start of $79.52 million, the Adam Sandler led Grown Ups 2 is running 2 percent ahead of the $77.63 million ten-day take of Grown Ups.
Meanwhile, Warner's Pacific Rim fell three spots and 57 percent to land in sixth with an estimated $15.96 million. Despite strong reviews and seemingly positive word of mouth among moviegoers, Pacific Rim is having a tough time expanding beyond its initial heavily fan driven audience. The Guillermo del Toro directed sci-fi action film has grossed $68.24 million in ten days, placing it 1 percent ahead of the $67.35 million ten-day start of 2011's Cowboys and Aliens.
On the platform front, Fox Searchlight's The Way, Way Back and The Weinstein Company's Fruitvale Station continued to post strong per-location numbers. The Way, Way Back grossed an estimated $2.24 million from 304 locations, giving it a per-location average of $7,368. Fruitvale Station grossed an estimated $742,272 from just 34 locations, for a per-location average of $21,832. Respective total grosses stand at $4.63 million for The Way, Way Back in 17 days and at $1.33 million for Fruitvale Station in ten days.
Platform results weren't anywhere near as impressive for Roadside's Girl Most Likely and RADiUS-TWC's Only God Forgives. The Kristen Wiig led Girl Most Likely debuted with an estimated $736,006 from 353 locations for a soft per-location average of $2,085. The Ryan Gosling led Only God Forgives grossed an estimated $315,008 from 78 locations for a modest per-location average of $4,039.
Saturday Update: Who needs A-list actors and special effects? The Conjuring is set to easily win the weekend without the burden of stars who demand massive salaries and expensive visual touches. WB reports that the horror flick took in a healthy $17 million on Friday. BoxOffice projects that the fright flick will grab $40 million before the weekend is through. That easily trumps the $34 million debut of The Purge, another a horror movie that shattered expectations this summer.
According to Fox, Turbo roped in $6.5 million on Friday, pushing its three-day haul to $16.2 million. BoxOffice projects that the animated flick will grab a modest $21 million from Friday-Sunday, which will put it at around $30.7 million over its first five days of release. Turbo has two weeks to rebound from this slow start before it will face tough competition from Sony's The Smurfs 2.
Universal's R.I.P.D. took in only $4.8 million on Friday, which puts it on pace for a paltry $12.2 million during its debut frame. July is turning out to be the home of this summer's biggest disappointments. First came Lone Ranger, then Pacific Rim--mainly just a domestic disappointment--and now R.I.P.D. Ryan Reynolds may be hurt the most by R.I.P.D.'s failure. The actors two attempts at setting up a tentpole franchise--Green Lantern is the other--have bombed.
Red 2 snagged $6.34 million on Friday. The sequel should end up with $18 million this weekend, which represents a small drop from the $21.7 million that Red managed back in 2010.
On a positive note for Universal, Despicable Me 2 is on pace to to gross $24.4 million this weekend after snagging $7.5 million on Friday. That will push the animated flick past $275 million in North America.
Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim are both set to experience substantial drops during their sophomore frames. Grown Ups 2 managed $6.4 million on Friday compared to $4.7 million for Pacific Rim.
The Way, Way Back is performing very well after expanding to more than 300 theaters this weekend. The coming-of-age tale is tale is on pace for just over $2 million after posting $616K on Friday. The Fox Searchlight release will expand to 650+ locations next weekend.
Friday Update #5: Sources tell BoxOffice that The Conjuring is looking even stronger now. A debut frame of $38 million seems possible based on what could be an $18 million haul on Friday. $40 million can't be ruled out, especially if positive word of mouth kicks in.
Friday Update #4: Sources tell BoxOffice that early Friday grosses indicate that this week's new releases are on pace for the following:
Turbo: $22 million (Fri-Sun); $32 million (Wed-Sun)
The Conjuring: $35 million (Fri-Sun)
Red 2: $22 million (Fri-Sun)
R.I.P.D.: $11 million (Fri-Sun)
Once again, a low-budget horror film is going to trump Hollywood's attempts to get people into theaters with A-list stars. The fact that Conjuring is way ahead of the pack proves that studios don't always need to rely on bloated budgets to get moviegoers excited. The question now is whether or not The Conjuring will be able to top the surprising $34 million debut that The Purge managed earlier this summer. Right now, it looks like a very strong possibility.
Turbo is definitely a victim of bad timing. Being sandwiched in between Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 and The Smurfs 2, which opens on July 31, has turned out to be an insurmountable hurdle for the animated flick to overcome. Perhaps overseas grosses will make up for what's shaping up to be an underwhelming domestic haul.
Red 2 has successfully tapped into the need for an action film that doesn't rely on twentysomething actors. Co-star Bruce Willis is the very definition of "hit and miss." Willis stumbled earlier this year with Live Free or Die Hard, but with Red 2 he has another success on his hands. Expect Red 2 to hold up well in the weeks to come.
Mark Universal's R.I.P.D. down as one of Summer 2013's biggest disappointments. The pairing of Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds in an effort that bares similarities to the Men In Black flicks just didn't click with moviegoers. Yet if any studio can let a flop bounce off them this summer, it's definitely Universal. After the strength of Fast & Furious 6, The Purge and Despicable Me 2, R.I.P.D.'s weak performance doesn't hurt as much.
Official studio numbers and updated projections will be in tomorrow morning.
Friday Update #3: Fox reports that Turbo is up to $9.7 million after two day. The animated flick grossed $5.5 million on Wednesday and $4.2 million on Thursday.
Blame a crowded market on Turbo's slow performance. Families came out in droves to support Monsters University at the end of June and Despicable Me 2 the last two weekends, so there's not a lot of disposable income left for Turbo, an original animated project that doesn't have the advantage of an established fan base. There's little doubt at this point that Turbo will lose the weekend to The Conjuring.
Friday Update #2: WB reports that The Conjuring took in $3.3 million from Thursday evening/Friday midnight shows. That's a very impressive start.
Universal's R.I.P.D. took in a modest $773K from Thursday shows. That's not a bad start, but it's far from blockbuster-level numbers.
Early Friday Update: Sources tell BoxOffice that The Conjuring looks to have topped at least $3 million during Thursday night previews.
That compares well against the $3.4 million preview tally of The Purge and $3.6 million from World War Z.
Combined with the film's #1 ranking on Fandango sales for Thursday, this is a great start to the Warner Bros. horror flick's weekend.
More updates later in the day.
Thursday: Fox reports that Turbo took in $5.6 million on Wednesday, which was just enough to top Despicable Me 2's $5.2 million haul in order to snag first place on Wednesday.
The victory looks like it will be short lived, because all signs point to a breakout weekend for The Conjuring. Fandango reports that The Conjuring is the #1 ticket seller today across its online and mobile platforms.
More coming soon...
Friday will be the first unofficial celebration of "Ryan Reynolds Day" in the global box office, as Turbo and R.I.P.D., two films starring the Green Lantern star/Scarlett Johansson's ex-husband, make their day-and-date debut in multiple overseas territories.
The Croods, Epic, Monsters University, and Despicable Me 2 have combined to gross $1.8 billion globally this year. Turbo will look to add to that figure with an overseas release in over two dozen territories. Latin America is carrying the bulk of the initial roll-out, as has become standard for recent animated releases.
R.I.P.D. is opening day-and-date in ten territories, including top performer Russia. The Jeff Bridges/Ryan Reynolds vehicle placed a strict review embargo in North America, suggesting a sour critical reception once it hits theaters. R.I.P.D. isn't expected to turn heads with such a limited roll-out, so a low overseas figure coming out of the gate won't serve as a good indication the film's overall performance. Russia will be the only market to keep a close eye on, with the territory currently proving itself as a strong catalyst for The Lone Ranger's overseas roll-out despite its poor numbers in North America.
The Lone Ranger opens in ten additional territories this weekend, led by top market Mexico. Depp's best showings in Mexico have come from 2010's Alice in Wonderland ($30.3M) and the $83.8 million grossed by the four films in the Pirates franchise. The same films have been hits in North America, however, and have done nothing to help the domestic struggles of The Lone Ranger in its home country. The Lone Ranger has struggled worldwide as well, closing last weekend with a $48 million overseas total from 33 territories.
Pacific Rim will hope to spread last weekend's success in Asia to other regions with an expansion in a dozen additional territories. Guillermo del Toro's popcorn flick took in $53.1 million from 38 markets in its overseas premiere. The initial list included six of Warner Brothers' top twelve overseas markets. The film had a slow start out of the gate, finishing in third place in North America with a $37.2 million opening weekend.
The film's overseas gross was less indicative of its long-term potential. South Korea and Russia were the only major markets where the film took the top spot. Pacific Rim finished the weekend with $9.8 million from South Korea and $8.8 million from Russia. The film had a good weekend in Mexico despite coming in second place with $5.4 million. It was a different story in the remaining three top markets for Warner Bros., with Pacific Rim falling short in Italy (2nd Place, $1.5M), Australia (3rd Place, $2.7M) and the United Kingdom (3rd Place, $3.3M).
This weekend will bring the film to two more top markets: France and Germany. Comedies have ruled in the German box office this year, a market where this summer's sci-fi tent-poles have been inconsistent. Star Trek Into Darkness is the sole exception in that list with a $20.8 million tally. Oblivion got nowhere close to that number with an $8.7 million total and After Earth has only brought in a quarter of the Star Trek sequel's business with $5.4 million. The lack of success in top markets could be attributed to the packed release schedule at this time of the year, a problem compounded in the vibrant French market. Pacific Rim will battle against the first holdover weekend of Monsters University in France, a fight that Guillermo del Toro's latest film lost in multiple other territories last weekend.
Sony's slow summer continues with the struggles of White House Down. The Roland Emmerich action flick finished the weekend with a $19.6 million cume from 29 territories. South Korea is the only one of those territories that could be considered a major player for the Sony release; White House Down has earned $3.5 million of its overseas total from South Korea since its June 27 release. The right markets can turn the tide for the Jamie Foxx/Channing Tatum vehicle and this weekend's release in a dozen more territories includes the addition of Russia. Olympus Has Fallen only took in an estimated $5 million from Russia, a factor that suggests that local audiences might not be in tune with the film's concept. The weekend's result should be taken in stride regardless of the outcome; White House Down won't expand until more significant territories open in early September.
A $5.2 million opening weekend for Monsters University led the box office chart in the United Kingdom. The Pixar prequel played in 525 screens for a market-leading $9,968 average. The debut for the animated film pushed Despicable Me 2 down to second place with a $3.3 million take in its third weekend. The minions have dominated the market in the United Kingdom since the film's release, posting a $40.8 million cumulative total.
The animated films stole the headlines and also most of the thunder from Pacific Rim. Guillermo Del Toro's high-concept tent-pole came in third place with a $3.3 million debut from 494 theaters. Now You See Me was the only other film to break the million-dollar mark in the U.K. over the weekend. The magic heist film has grossed a total of $8 million after two weeks in release.
Other big performers from 2013 in the United Kingdom include World War Z ($20.1M in 4 weeks), Man of Steel ($45M in 5 weeks), The Croods ($39.9M in 17 weeks), The Great Gatsby ($23.7M in 9 weeks), The Hangover Part III ($29.4M in 8 weeks), Epic ($19.7M in 8 weeks), Fast & Furious 6 ($38.2M in 9 weeks), Star Trek Into Darkness ($39.2M in 10 weeks), Wreck-It Ralph ($36.1M in 23 weeks), and Iron Man 3 ($57M in 12 weeks).
Top 10 Films in the United Kingdom. July 12-14, 2013.