Wonder Woman Bounces Box Office Back Into High Gear
By John Hamann
June 4, 2017
What a difference a weekend makes.
Last weekend's critically derided openers make way for two much-loved summer hopefuls, Wonder Woman and Captain Underpants, and the lights come back on at the box office. It has not been a great start to the summer, given the implosion of Snatched, King Arthur and the faltering (and now near death) Alien: Covenant, which were joined by Pirates of Caribbean 5 and Baywatch last weekend. The May box office – the supposed kickstart to summer – has had only one real hit: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which has grossed more at home and abroad than the original did in 2014.
After a Memorial Day Weekend that flat out sucked at the box office with the implosion of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch, the box office needed a hit, and all eyes were on DC's Wonder Woman to provide the push. The box office got the bump it needed, as we traded last weekend's garbage for some excellent product this frame. A much-loved Wonder Woman was joined by Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, another flick that got a great score from critics. So, we entered a weekend with two films that critics loved and had built-in audiences – could Hollywood be on to something? Could we really be kicking May to the curb, and moving on to the real summer?
Wonder Woman has been kicked around as a movie idea forever, and finally this weekend, Warner Bros. and DC Comics finally got a movie right after royally screwing Batman v Superman and to a lesser affect, Man of Steel and Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. and DC did make $2.3 billion worldwide off those three films, but unfortunately they had a production cost only at a combined $650 million. (In order to capture the massive cost of advertising these mega-blockbusters worldwide, I multiply the production budget by 3.0 for a truer – but still very generic cost.) These calculations meant that the three DC films would need to make almost $2 billion worldwide before making a profit. So, Warner Bros. likely eked out a profit on those three before having a large windfall from merchandising.
Wonder Woman cost "only" $149 million to make, $100 million less than Batman v Superman and $75 million less than Man of Steel. Using my math, we can see that Wonder Woman will need to earn $450 million worldwide to start seeing a profit theatrically, which should be easy, considering that both the foreign and domestic results were hugely successful this weekend.
The Gal Gadot starrer earned a very large $11 million from Thursday previews alone, setting the tone for what was going to be a huge weekend for the superhero. For many weeks leading up to release, I believed Wonder Woman was going to have a similar result of the first Captain America movie, given the timeline and setting of the film, and the fact that neither Batman nor Superman appear in it. From previews, Wonder Woman pushed both Thor ($3.25 million preview) and the original Captain America ($4 million) to the curb, more than doubling those results. The preview was also ahead of Doctor Strange, which pulled in $9.4 million from previews. That Marvel release went on to an opening day gross of $32.6 million (combined Thursday/Friday), a bigger number than most were expecting.