Batman V Superman in profit slump

Ben Affleck (left) and Henry Cavill (Reuters)
Ben Affleck (left) and Henry Cavill (Reuters)

When is a success not really a success? Perhaps when you expected an absolute smash hit.

A case in point is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

It has made US$700 million at the global box office since being released on March 25 in the United States. That sounds impressive -- but Warner Bros Pictures had been hoping for more than US$1 billion.

While the slump is by no means insignificant, its failings are dwarfed in comparison by these big-budget films that did so badly that they actually ran at a multi-million dollar loss.

Batman V Superman in profit slump

Batman V Superman can certainly not be mentioned in the same breath as any of the above box office flops, with the film still enjoying a very strong opening weekend -- but its takings dropped by more than 60 percent in its second weekend.

Variety says the film made about US$166 million at the North American box office over the Easter weekend, dropping by 68 percent to US$51.3 million the following weekend.

The movie dropped by even more, 78 percent, in China, where it has now made US$86 million over ten days.

How big will its profit be?

The film cost around US$250 to make. It is supposed to lay the path for a series of DC Comics superhero movies, including Wonder Woman, the Flash and Aquaman, Suicide Squad and the big one, Justice League.

Revenue of US$700 million on an investment of US$250 million sounds pretty good -- but that figure does not include the marketing and distribution costs.

The real break-even point could be US$500 million -- and even that is a guess as Hollywood accounting practises are complex.

The profit will be split between Warner Bros and the distributors in various territories. The film will be profitable, but the profit may not be massive.

That is where something called the "return on investment" comes into play.

Was the film's profit big enough to justify not just the expense, but also the risk, taken by Warner Bros?

The film was supposed to set up the subsequent DC superhero films -- and now the mixed critical and audience response means that people might not be as keen to see the upcoming DC superhero films.

Those films will still happen, and people will still flock to see them. But US media report that Warner Bros executives are now rethinking their release plans.

A change of strategy?

Warner Bros typically releases around 20 movies a year. Some are big-budget movies and some are smaller films that might not have huge appeal, but will still find an audience because they are well made.

There are suggestions the studio might scale back the number of films it makes. Curiously it is the smaller films that might be most at risk, as the studio focuses on retooling the DC films.

Studio executives are said to be looking at putting even more focus on their big budget franchise movies: the DC superhero movies, the Lego films and new Harry Potter spin-off films Fantastic Beasts.

Of course, just because a film is big-budget does not mean it isn't high quality.

Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy drew big crowds and rave reviews. So did The Lego Movie.

The Batman trilogy was quite dark and not for kids. That applies to the new Batman V Superman film as well.

That is where the mixed reviews for Batman V Superman are an issue.

The Batman trilogy's reviews were so good that the films attracted many people who would not normally go to a superhero film. But that isn't proving to be the case for Batman V Superman.