Batman versus Superman Box Office Plunge Prompts Questions

Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Image © Warner Bros/DC Entertainment

Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Image © Warner Bros/DC Entertainment

What are the key differences between two of DC Comics top heroes, Superman and Batman that make them so different – and could a 1990s story written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by Steve Rude be a better example of illustrating them, rather than the grim and gritty approach of Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Challenging the modern cinema take on superheroes is a fair question to ask our readers, given how the newly-released Batman versus Superman film seems to have polarised many comics fans on both sides of the Atlantic – and although it’s been a huge box office success and has already earned an estimated $682,857,793 so far globally, there’s been a huge drop in box office during its second weekend in the United States.

Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice has earned $261,457,793 in the US so far, ($421,400,000 internationally with £14 million plus in its first week in the UK), but its second weekend receipts for the film – planned as the first of several based on the DC Comics Universe – are, to say the least, disappointing.

Batman versus Superman - Promotional Image. Image © Warner Bros/DC Entertainment

Image © Warner Bros/DC Entertainment

Brook Barnes at the New York Times describes the box office fall of as a “superlunge”, noting second-weekend domestic ticket sales for Batman versus Superman is “less a single movie than an audacious effort by Warner Bros. to prime filmgoers for an 11-film superhero series, totaled roughly $52.4 million, a 68 percent decline from its opening weekend.

“That drop, which came despite little competition,” the paper notes, “was among the largest on record for a superhero movie, according to the database Box Office Mojo.”

While UK weekend box office estimates for this weekend aren’t yet in but the film opened strongly last week, with £14.62m over the three-day weekend, with Easter Monday pushing the four-day total to £17.96m.

Comparing that with other DC-inspired film releases in recent years, The Guardian, utilising figures from the BFI, notes Man of Steel began in June 2013 with £11.2m, while the Chris Nolan-directed Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight opened in July 2008 with £11.19m including previews of £2.5m, and The Dark Knight Rises with £14.36m (and no previews).

“Comparing the three-day openings, Batman versus Superman has debuted a tiny bit ahead of The Dark Knight Rises,” notes Charles Gant, “but with the benefit of four years of ticket-price inflation.”

Gant argues in terms of pure box office, that Warners and DC Comics can fairly claim bragging rights on the biggest ever opening weekend for a superhero movie at UK cinemas for the new film – whatever both critics and comic fans think of it. “For comparisons with the top Marvel titles, Avengers Assemble kicked off with £13.22m plus £2.55m in previews, while sequel Age of Ultron began with £14.42m plus £3.6m in previews. Again, ignoring previews, Batman v Superman has opened a tiny bit ahead of Age of Ultron, with the benefit this time of just one year’s ticket price inflation.”

Although the film has been a smash hit by any account, the New York Times reports the the movie faces financial questions. “Warner spent at least $400 million to make and market it, which means the studio will need to generate an estimated $800 million worldwide to break even, according to analysts.

Despite the drop off, Warner seems unphased. Other films have suffered similar box office drop offs but still proved a success (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” for example, fell 72 per cent after its US opening in 2011, but still went on to collect $1.3 billion worldwide).

Despite strong box office and the questions the drop off inevitably raises, many fans are still struggling with director Zack Snyder’s take on some of their favourite superheroes – and inevitably, many have asked: what’s the comic that best differentiates the worlds and world views of Batman and Superman?

World's Finest by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude

Comic book historian Jim Thompson’s immediate nomination, for example, is the 1990 three issue mini-series, World’s Finest, written by Dave Gibbons, art by Steve RudeKarl Kessel and Steve Oliff, where the heroes temporarily trade cities. I’d have to agree it’s a great choice – there are some sample spreads below.

Which story do you think perfectly captures both the differences in character and their worlds? Let us know below!

Art © DC Entertainment

World's Finest by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude - S1

World's Finest by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude - S2

World's Finest by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude - S3

World's Finest by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude - S4

World's Finest by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude - S5

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: DC Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Film News, Superhero Comics, US Comics

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2 replies

  1. Matt Badham writes (via Twitter): “I have fond memories of the meeting between Batman and Superman in Man of Steel #3. (Documented here)

  2. The big problem for WB is that their break-even on the project was – at the most recent estimate I’ve seen – somewhere around $925 million. It’s collapsed in China, apparently collapsed in the US and there’s no sign of it holding up better anywhere else. With current WW take at just shy of $700 million yesterday, that’s a big hill to climb.

    WB’s expectations for BvS almost certainly weren’t that it would just nose past MoS, or struggle to hit $900 million WW – this was intended to be the launchpad for the DCCU (after the project faltered with George Miller’s aborted Justice League and the Green Lantern flop) and it has hooks into the about-to-shoot Snyder-helmed Justice League. They will likely make money on it eventually with the full theatrical run and ancilliaries taken into account, but I don’t think anyone at WB had that as their best-case scenario, especially with Batman in the mix.

    It will be interesting to see whether there are any changes made to the filming schedule of Justice League or Snyder’s position helming the nascent DCCU – that will be far more telling about WB’s satisfaction with BvS than the slightly defensive statements they’ve put out to date (the “critics vs true fans” narrative has been strong so far!)

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