'Batman v Superman' Launches DC Superhero Universe With Record $166.1M U.S. Debut (Update)

By Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter

The first meeting of Batman and Superman on the big screen was simply too enticing to resist.

In a much-needed win for Warner Bros., Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — introducing Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader and returning Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel — opened to a massive $166.1 million from 4,242 theaters, a defining moment in DC Entertainment’s battle to compete with Marvel’s superhero universe. It also helped deliver the biggest Easter weekend in history, up 13.5 percent over last year’s record level, which was fueled by Furious 7.

On Sunday, Warners put the movie’s opening at $170.1 million, but traffic slowed on Sunday. Instead of being the No. 6 opening of all time, it is the No. 7, although it remains the fourth-best launch of all time for a superhero film behind a trio of Marvel titles: The Avengers ($207.4 million), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million) and Iron Man 3 ($174.1 million), not accounting for inflation.

Had the $170.1 million held, BvS woulld have marked the biggest opening in history for Warners, beating the final Harry Potter film ($169 million). On Sunday, the studio highlighted this fact in a press release listing the movie’s numerous accomplishments, many of which still hold.

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Batman v Superman also made history globally with $420.1 million, the No. 4 worldwide bow of all time behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($529 million), Jurassic World ($524.9 million) and the final Harry Potter film ($483.2 million). The movie benefited mightily from opening day-and-date everywhere, including in China, where it amassed $57.3 million. Its international take was $254 million, the biggest for any superhero pic.

The previous biggest superhero opening was The Avengers with a global bow of $392.5 million (that film didn’t have the advantage of opening everywhere at the same time). In terms of China, Avengers: Age of Ultron still easily holds the crown with a debut of $155.8 million two weeks after the sequel opened in North America.

And in North America, BvS it easily bested the $152.2 million debut of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in March 2013 to boast the biggest pre-summer debut in history.

Batman v Superman’s mega-performance is all the more impressive considering it earned dismal notices and a mediocre B CinemaScore. As expected, the film skewed heavily male (66 percent), with the largest segment of the audience (63 percent) between the ages of 18 and 34, according to comScore’s PostTrak exit service. Warner Bros.’ exit polls show a slightly different picture, with males making up 62 percent of all ticket buyers.

“There is no question this is an extraordinary achievement,” said Warners domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. “Clearly, audiences have embraced it and we are already seeing repeat business. It’s just fun. Often, there’s a disconnect between critics and audiences.”

All told, 40 percent of the $170.1 million came from 3D screens. Imax theaters turned in a hefty $18 million from 388 locations, the biggest Easter weekend in history for Imax. And 475 premium large format screens are reporting $17 million. Internationally, Imax locations turned in another $18 million for a global opening of $36 million, the third-best opening behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World.

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The previous best domestic opening for a DC Entertainment film was Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, which debuted to $160.9 million in summer 2012.

Batman v Superman sees Batman (Affleck) and Superman (Cavill) battling it out as Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) brings to life another deadly threat to the world. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) makes her first appearance ahead of getting her own stand-alone movie next year.

Warners’ first Superman film starring Cavill, Man of Steel, earned $116.6 million in its domestic debut in June 2013.

Batman v Superman, costing at least $250 million to make before marketing, is a defining moment for Warner Bros. as it looks to both improve its box-office fortunes and turn out a slew of superhero movies in the coming years. BvS lays the groundwork for Snyder’s two Justice League movies, the first of which he begins shooting in April, as well as a Wonder Woman spinoff.

The female-skewing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, the follow-up to the 2002 hit, was the only film that dared to open opposite Batman v Superman. The maneuver paid off, with the long-gestating sequel opening to a better-than-expected $18.1 million from 3,133 theaters. Women made up 73 percent of the audience.

Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested the Universal release, written by and starring Nia Vardalos, would open to $10 million. Gold Circle Entertainment, HBO and Playtone produced the film, which earned an A- CinemaScore.

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“it’s a terrific result. I think it’s remarkable that Nia was able to capture the spirit of the first film 14 years later,” said Universal distribution chief Nick Carpou.

Elsewhere in the top five, Disney Animation Studios’ Zootopia placed No. 2 with a strong $23.1 million for a domestic total of $240.5 million. Overseas, it earned another $42.5 million for an international total of $456.2 million and global cume of nearly $700 million ($696.7 million). In China, it zoomed past the $200 million mark to become the No. 2 Disney title of all time behind Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Sony’s faith-based offering, Miracles From Heaven, held well in its second weekend, thanks to the Easter holiday. It dropped a slim 36 percent to $9.5 million for a domestic total of $35.1 million through Sunday.

Miracles From Heaven tied with Lionsgate’s troubled tentpole The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1 for the No. 4 spot (the order will be decided Monday). The YA film adaptation tumbled 67 percent in its second weekend to an estimated $9.5 million for a meek domestic total of $46.6 million. Overseas, where Allegiant is also soft, it took in $9.5 million from 78 markets for a foreign total of $71.8 million and worldwide cume of $118.4 million.

Elsewhere, specialty title Hello, My Name is Doris, starring Sally Field, moved into the top 10 chart in its second weekend. The film, expanding onto a total of 488 screens, placed No. 9 with $1.7 million for an early domestic total of $3.3 million for Roadside Attractions and Sony’s Stage 6 Films.

Weekend Box Office 3/27/16Comscore Estimates for Weekend of 3/27/16WEEKENDCUMETHEATERSWEEK

March 28, 7:50 a.m. Updated with final domestic number.

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