For most movies, a $96 million opening weekend would be a cause for celebration. That’s more money than John Wick: Chapter Two — a great film that you should watch with the entire family this holiday weekend — made in its entire run. But Justice League isn’t most movies. It’s DC’s Avengers, the long-awaited team-up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, and, uh, Cyborg, I guess. That $96 million is less than Batman vs. Superman‘s $160 million, Suicide Squad‘s $133 million, and Wonder Woman‘s $103 million, and a fraction of the film’s reported $300 million budget. (And that doesn’t even include the rumored $150 million in global marketing.)
Barring an unlikely strong word-of-mouth boost, Forbes predicts Justice League will bring in $235 million domestically, with another $400 million internationally. That’s $635 million worldwide, which would make Justice League the “lowest-grossing movie among the five DCEU releases so far.” (Losing to Jared Leto? That’s gotta sting.) Yes, $635 million is more than the $300 million budget and $150 million marketing, but there are other costs:
If we add up theatrical rentals with global home entertainment, television, and fees, we get to a net revenue figure of $575 million going to Warner Bros. Against that we deduct costs of $300 million for producing the movie, $150 million for marketing, $60 million for global home entertainment costs, $20 million for talent guild residuals and “off-the-tops” (release-related expenses), $20 million in interest expense, and, let’s say, $50 million for talent participation to the director, producers, stars, and others.
Total estimated costs: $600 million. Deduct that from the $545 million in studio revenue and we wind up with a $55 million loss. Against Warners’ $475 million in upfront production and marketing expenditures, that works out to negative 12% [Return On Investment]. And all of this is before we count the studio’s overhead costs, which if amortized against the picture would probably widen the Justice League loss by another $40 million.
When all’s said and done, Justice League will likely lose Warner Bros. somewhere between $50 million-$100 million. That’s a worse financial return than even The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Wonder Woman 2 can’t get here soon enough. The full breakdown can be found at Forbes.