The critically reviled Batman vs. Superman opened in March of last year with $160 million. Suicide Squad opened with $133 million. Wonder Woman opened with $103 million, and more recently, Thor: Ragnarok opened with $122 million. Comparatively speaking, the $96 million opening of Justice League — a movie that’s been a decade in the making and that cost upwards of $300 million to produce — is hugely disappointing. It’s going to inspire dozens of think pieces about whether DC should even continue, and dozens more about how the DCEU needs to change in order to rebound from this.
However, here’s the silver lining: $96 million is still $96 million. It’s still the eighth biggest opening of the weekend of 2017, and I feel fairly confident that Justice League will eventually match the $330 domestic box-office gross of Batman v. Superman. Justice League, which is faring marginally better than Batman v. Superman with critics (39 percent compared to 27 percent) and performing better with audiences, as well (a B+ Cinemascore compared to the B of Batman v. Superman). Plus 85 percent of moviegoers grade the film “positively.” Word of mouth should keep Justice League healthy in the coming weeks.
The biggest advantage Justice League has, however, is nearly a month of runway. Maybe Justice League fans didn’t run out and see this one on opening weekend — the sense of urgency wasn’t there for this one. But there’s a five-day Thanksgiving weekend approaching, where blockbuster films rarely lose much of their hold. But next Monday, Justice League will likely have crossed the $200 million mark with only Pixar’s family-friend Coco as competition. After that, there are no major films standing in between Justice League and Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15th. In other words, Justice League still has Thanksgiving weekend and two more weekends mostly to itself, and my guess is that moviegoers will eventually come around to it. Justice League may not have had monstrous opening weekend numbers, but studios anticipated that it would and cleared the decks accordingly.
Likewise, Justice League will probably fare as well at the worldwide box office as Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad before it, which is to say: It’ll hit at least $500 million (maybe more considering the draw of Gal Gadot internationally). So no: Justice League may not hit the $1 billion mark, but it’ll still earn a profit. It’ll still probably make $800 million. The future of the DCEU will not be left in doubt, but they may want to emphasize Wonder Woman more. That’s because not only did more men see Justice League on opening weekend (58 to 42 percent), but women actually liked Justice League more than men (A- compared to the B+ of men). WB may want to think about tapping into their stable of female superheroes because, no offense, Justice League is a bit of a sausage fest.
Meanwhile, there was a bit of great news at the weekend box office. While Justice League fell $20-$30 million below tracking, a little $20 million family film called Wonder nearly doubled expectations, coming in with $27 million. For good reason, too, because Wonder is the kindest film of 2017, and in this political and cultural climate, kindness is hugely appreciated. Wonder should continue to perform well over the holidays, too, in part because a lot of schools around the nation are teaching the R.J. Palacio’s YA novel Wonder in their classrooms and busing students to see the film (I’ve heard from a number of parents, in fact, who say that their kids haven’t seen it yet because they are going with their school class or their Girl Scout groups in the coming weeks). This should turn out to be a big sleeper hit for Lionsgate, and for a few weeks, anyway, make both Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson suddenly relevant again.
Slots three and four this weekend went to holdovers. Thor: Ragnarok continues to perform well in spite of the release of Justice League. It amassed $20 million this weekend to bring its overall total to $245 million. It’s also added nearly $500 million worldwide. Meanwhile, Murder on the Orient Express added $14 million in its second weekend, and it’s now earned $52 million after 10 days (it should also perform well with adult audiences over Thanksgiving). The film, made for $55 million, has already made $120 million worldwide.
Fifth place goes to Daddy’s Home 2, which earned $13.6 million to bring its total to $50 million. Sixth place went to another new release this weekend, the faith-based animated film Star, which earned $10 million on a $20 million budget. A Bad Mom’s Christmas also crossed the $50 million mark this weekend, coming in at number seven with $7.3 million.
Eighth and ninth place went to the biggest Oscar contenders of the season, so far. Lady Bird is crushing it in limited release, earning $2.1 million in only 238 theaters. Likewise, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO made $1.1 million in only 53 theaters. Expect both of these films to expand nationally in the next two weeks.
Finally, Jigsaw rounded out the top 10 with $1 million, bringing its total to $36 million.
As for Thanksgiving weekend: Pixar’s Coco should dominate in the same way that Moana dominated last Thanksgiving, while Denzel’s Roman J. Israel, Esq, which has only received so-so reviews, so far, will open in 1500 theaters. Lady Bird is arriving in my hometown of Portland, Maine, which means it will expand at least into the mid-sized markets. Hit up your indie theaters to see when it will arrive in your towns.