By Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter
Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice plunged an estimated 68 percent in its second weekend — one of the biggest drops in history for a marquee superhero title — even as it easily stayed No. 1.
The Warner Bros. title earned $52.4 million from 4,256 theaters, less than anticipated, for a domestic total of $261.5 million. Final weekend numbers will be tallied Monday.
Heading into the weekend, some analysts thought BvS would pull in north of $60 million, considering it had little competition (no new major studio titles opened nationwide). Warners and Snyder have plenty riding on BvS, which launches the DC cinematic universe, including two Justice League movies — the first of which Snyder is presently shooting — and this summer’s Suicide Squad.
BvS is also seeing big drops in some key international markets. Overall, its Friday haul of $19.2 million from 67 markets was down 72 percent from Friday a week ago. The tentpole’s decline in China was a hefty 87 percent, and 77 percent in the U.K.
Dismal reviews and a B CinemaScore are no doubt catching up with the superhero smackdown, which teams Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) on the big screen for the first time.
As a way of comparison, Avengers: Age of Ultron fell 59 percent in its second weekend and The Dark Knight, 53 percent. The only major studio superhero movie to see a decline approaching 70 percent was X-Men Origins: The Wolverine, which fell 69 percent in its second outing. And recent superhero entry Deadpool feel 57 percent to $56.4 million, while Snyder’s Man of Steel dipped 65 percent.
Some industry observers suggest a decline of 70 percent is acceptable. They note that blockbuster Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 actually tumbled 72 percent in its second weekend, while The Twilight Saga: The New Moon slipped 70 percent. Both movies were fan-driven and hence front-loaded. Nor were they weren’t considered four-quadrant movies.
Warner Bros. dismisses any concern, saying BvS remains a formidable player after breaking a number of records in its debut, including nabbing the best March opening of all time domestically and the No. 1 superhero debut at the worldwide box office. The studio contends the movie has succeeded in laying the groundwork for the DC superhero universe, including twoJustice League movies and this summer’s Suicide Squad, as well as a Wonder Woman spin off.
Batman v Superman has already earned well north of $600 million globally, including $363.4 million internationally, exceeding the lifetime runs of Ant-Man, Thor, Wolverine and Captain America. And by Sunday, its worldwide gross is likely to exceed $650 million.
Offshore, China leads with a so-so $75 million, well behind Age of Ultron, followed by the U.K. with a strong $35.4 million and $25.9 million in Mexico.
The studio says a key reason for the drop in the U.S. is the fact that the movie earned nearly $28 million in Thursday-night previews, which was folded into the opening-weekend gross. (Ultron, however, also earned a hearty amount in previews).
Others are more circumspect, saying lukewarm word-of-mouth is definitely having an impact.
Audience darling Zootopia placed No. 2 in its fifth weekend, grossing an estimated $19 million-$20 million for a domestic total north of $276 million for Disney Animation Studios.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 came in No. 3, falling a mere 38 percent in its second weekend to $11.1 million for a North American total of $36.4 million. Overseas, the sequel took in $5.6 million from 19 markets for a foreign total of $18.4 million and global tally of $54.8 million for Universal and the filmmakers.
With the studios taking a break this weekend, the marquee belongs to new titles from indie distributors, including Pure Flix’s indie faith-based offering God’s Not Dead 2 and Freestyle Releasing’s Meet the Blacks.
God’s Not Dead 2 came in ahead of projections with estimated $8.1 million from 2,320, putting it in a close race with fellow faith-based title Miracles From Heaven for the No. 4 spot.
Meet the Blacks, starring Mike Epps, debuted to an estimated $4.1 million from 1,104 theaters.
Elsewhere, Bleecker Street used the opportunity to expand Eye in the Sky nationwide into 1,029 theaters. The drone drama, starring Helen Mirren, likewise took in an estimated $4.1 million for a domestic total of $6.1 million and tying with Meet the Blacks for the No. 8 spot.
Specialty player Hello, My Name is Doris, from Roadside Attractions, is also making another major push, expanding from 485 to 964 screens. The film, starring Sally Field, is expected to gross roughly $2.3 million for the weekend for a pleasing domestic total of $6.6 million.
Making its debut at the specialty box office is Paramount and Annapurna Pictures’ Everybody Wants Some, filmmaker Richard Linklater’s critically acclaimed “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused. The $10 million movie, opening in 18 markets, is projected to gross an estimated $320,000 for a location average of $16,855.
Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, starring Don Cheadle, claimed the top theater average of the weekend after debuting to $122,751 from in four locations in New York and Los Angeles for an average of $30,668 for Sony Pictures Classics.
Related: 'Everybody Wants Some’: SXSW Review
April 2, 7:30 a.m. Updated.
April 3, 7:30 a.m. Updated.