Jan 20 2014, 8:46am CST | by Forbes
Yes, as we all know, Batman Vs. Superman has been delayed from July 17th, 2015 until May 6th, 2016. And yes I discussed the curious date choice Saturday and how Warner Bros. was probably better off using its tried-and-true mid-July release slot, namely July 22nd, 2016. But one thing I’d like to touch on is the idea that a 10-month delay is in-itself a sign of production turmoil and trouble. The film may in fact be going through a complete top-down revamp. It may in fact be using every moment of that ten month delay to whip the project into workable shape. But the fact that it’s been delayed 10 months is irrelevant to this notion. Due to the release calendar, even a delay of a couple weeks would have meant a delay of at least ten months.
If Warner Bros. found themselves unable or unwilling to commit to having Man Of Steel 2: Justice League Inhibited ready for July 17th, 2015, then that meant by default that they’d pretty much kiss summer 2015 goodbye. By moving any more than two weeks, they’d end up in August, which is not where one of the biggest films of the year generally go to open. Yes, there are blockbusters that launched in very early August (The Sixth Sense, The Fugitive, Rush Hour 2, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes), but none of them had the kind of opening weekends or final grosses that Warner Bros. would find appropriate for a Batman/Superman movie.
The biggest grossing film of all-time in August is The Sixth Sense in 1999 with $673m. After that, it’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes with $481m. The biggest opening weekend for August is The Bourne Ultimatum, with $69m, which is about what The Dark Knight made on its first day ($67m). There have been exactly four movies (Sixth Sense, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Signs) that have opened in August that have made over $400m worldwide. Opening in August would mean that Man Of Steel 2: Justice League Unusual would basically have to break any and all August box office records to achieve what would be a desirable ($750m-$1b) result. Marvel may be willing to risk it with their non-essential wild card property Guardians of the Galaxy this August, but no way Warner Bros. will risk such a result with their crown jewel icons.
So summer 2015 is out, but what about an out-of-season release? Okay, it’s Man Of Steel 2: Justice League Unusual, people will come right? Probably, but not definitely, and not at a guaranteed top-level blockbuster degree. The biggest blockbuster to come out of the September/October season was actually Gravity, which despite all of the buzz and accolades and legs has earned $677 million worldwide. That’s terrific for Gravity, which was an original property and cost $100 million. But it’s also about what Man Of Steel pulled in ($668m) and less than The Amazing Spider-Man ($752m). So once again, in order to get the desired result, Warner Bros. has to hope that Man Of Steel 2 makes more money than any other September/October movie ever made by a large margin. Is it possible? Sure, records are made to be broken. But is it worth the risk? Not for the “must succeed” property in the Warner Bros./DC Comics library.
So what about November/December? Well, in a less crowded schedule, Warner Bros. may well have said “Screw this, we’re going for Christmas!”. But Disney already had that bright idea, delaying Star Wars Episode VII from May 22nd 2015 to December 18th, 2015. And November already has the final Hunger Games film, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, and the next 007 picture, which will surely open larger than any other James Bond film ever thanks to the goodwill banked off of Skyfall (and Skyfall pulled $100m in five days). Oh, and December also has Kung Fu Panda 3 and Mission: Impossible 5 just for good measure. So yeah, November and December are not remotely viable months for this must-succeed DC Comics property. The end result of all of this is that Batman Vs. Superman moving even a week or so off of July 17th, 2015 means that Batman Vs. Superman will not be opening anywhere in 2015.
All of which brings us into 2016. Despite certain NATO presidents talking about experimenting with year-round blockbuster season, I don’t think any of us can reasonably envision Man Of Steel 2: Challenge of the Superfriends opening in January or February. The biggest opening weekend in January is Ride Along, which just pulled in $47 million over four days. That’s about what Man Of Steel 2 would like to earn on Thursday night alone. The highest grossing film in January that wasn’t a nationwide expansion of a prior year’s Oscar contender is that cinematic classic Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which earned $146m domestic. The biggest opening for February for films not explicitly involving Jesus Christ himself is Hannibal with $58 million back in 2001 and it ended with $351m worldwide (yes that was 13 years ago and with an R-rating, but I digress). The highest grossing February movie of all time worldwide is The Passion of the Christ ($622m) followed by Hitch with $368m. Again, it’s slightly doable that Batman Vs. Superman could achieve mega-blockbuster status in February, but records must be demolished.
But wait you say, what about April or March? Well, March actually has a handful of mega-grossers, including one bonafide $1 billion grosser in Alice In Wonderland. The first Hunger Games earned $408m domestic off a near-record $152m debut and earned $691m. And it stands to reason that Catching Fire would have made about as much, give or take, had it too opening in March instead of the classic Harry Potter/Twilight slot where it’s now permanently housed. But after that you’ve got 300 ($458m) and Oz: The Great and Powerful ($493m) and a bunch of animated films that don’t really apply as a comparison. Yeah, How To Train Your Dragon earned $494m and Ice Age 2: The Meltdown earned a whopping $655m, but there’s a reason the next installments opened or will open in the summer. March is plausible, but again you have to bet on breaking precedent.
April is absolutely out of the question. The biggest opening weekends in April are Fast Five ($86m), Fast & Furious ($72m), and whatever Fast & Furious 7 opens with when it debuts in April 2015. Moreover, the only film ever released in April that has even topped $500 million was Fast Five, which earned $626m. The Matrix ended up with “just” $171m domestic and $463m back in 1999 (again ,yes it was 15 years ago and R-rated, but again I digress), while Fast & Furious ended up with $373m. You have two films that almost hit $500m (Clash of the Titans and Rio) and the rest is basically under $400m. Disney can afford to risk merely scoring $450-$550m with Captain America: The Winter Soldier if it doesn’t go above-and-beyond the expectations of an April blockbuster (the first film earned $370m opening in late July 2011), but Warner Bros. again cannot risk such a fate for its biggest current film.
Besides, after you’re already up to April, you might as well plant your butt on May 6th, 2016 and open Marvel runs in terror. So there you have it. The decision to delay Batman Vs. Superman may well be about quality control and giving themselves more time to make a better film. But the length of that delay, ten months in this case, although I again wouldn’t rule out a full year delay, is more about the specific calendar than anything else. Ironically, for the sake of rumors, they would have been better off indeed delaying it for a whole year, with the excuse that “We can’t make July 2015, but we really want our standard July slot, so July 2016 it is!”.
Once the choice was made to not open Batman Vs. Superman on July 17th, 2015, the die was cast for the film to open on May 6th, 2016 at the very earliest. The choice to delay may have been about quality or specific production concerns. But the length of that delay was merely about smart (or at least risk-averse) scheduling.
Source: Forbes Business
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