Monday Morning Quarterback Part One
By BOP Staff
July 4, 2006
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...disappointing.Kim Hollis: Superman Returns, Bryan Singer's attempt to reboot the DC superhero franchise, opened to an estimated $52 million over the weekend and has a five-day tally of $84 million. Given the reported budget of $209 million, what do you think of this performance?
Dan Krovich: Considering that budget number is probably low when you take into account the failed Superman projects, it's not a very good start.
Tim Briody: I think some of the expectations might have been unrealistic. We were all viewing this as another Spider-Man, when it was really another Batman Begins.
David Mumpower: In the Friday update, I said that this opening is a failure, plain and simple. I feel there is no other way to address it. John Hamann did a splendid job in his call of describing the ways it disappoints. It's well under War of the Worlds. The opening weekend is behind Fantastic Four. Its five-day is well short of X-Men: The Last Stand's three-day. Superman Returns disappointed on every day of box office since its opening. Every one.
Reagen Sulewski: The only way you can swallow the expectations line is if you demote Superman to a second tier hero, like Blade or Daredevil. I don't think anyone is ready to accept that.
Kim Hollis: I think that it feels a lot like King Kong. Honestly, my expectations were not that high a few weeks ago, but the hype once again went into overdrive, reviews were good (particularly from comic book die-hards) and Superman Returns started to feel like something massive. Warner Bros. can spin it however they want, but someone (or a lot of someones) is getting fired.
Reagen Sulewski: There's not even as much room for them to use the "Well, we're relaunching a franchise" excuse like they were able to pull off with Batman Begins last year. People still remember Batman & Robin (we'll always remember, Schumacher). A good portion, perhaps even a majority, of the audience for this film wasn't even in grade school when Superman IV came out.
Joel Corcoran: I agree with Dan. I think it's a good enough performance to reboot the franchise, but just barely. I'm sure Warner Bros. will still make a profit in the end, but I doubt the studio will meet its own expectations (much less the conventional wisdom).
David Mumpower: Between this and Poseidon, Warner Bros. has demonstrated that they have no skill whatsoever in marketing tentpole releases.
Superman is money. In the sense that he costs a lot of money.Dan Krovich: The film will lose money, but I'm not clear who loses the money as Legendary Pictures invested in the film as well.
David Mumpower: Figuring out the financing on this is bloody since there was already $40 million invested in pre-production before we even got to Bryan Singer's effort.
Tim Briody: Did a Wednesday opening hurt at all? Not in the buzz department, but isn't (if it theoretically earns in a three day weekend what it earned in the five days) $84 million a much nicer headline than $52 million?
Kim Hollis: They really did very little advertising of the film, in my opinion. I think it was their belief that people would know it was Superman and they'd just show up. The trouble is, Superman is dull and available in any number of outlets (Smallville, Justice Leage of America). What was there to draw audiences in? Other than people who would have been inclined to see it anyway?
Joel Corcoran: I'll be really surprised if the movie doesn't return some small profit after foreign runs and DVD sales. I just don't see this as a bomb along the lines of Stealth or The Island.
Tim Briody: I've thought for ages Wednesday openings were overrated. I dug the advertising, minus the Shaq ads.
David Mumpower: Tim, I'm certain that this was an intentional decision in order to be able to state the bigger number so that it doesn't seem crushed by X3. The Wednesday opening makes sense from that perspective but there is a downside to it. With the July 4th holiday coming up, Superman has a decent chance of doing over half its business in its first week. This could be another The Hulk scenario developing.
Reagen Sulewski: This might be the straw that breaks the camel's back for this tactic. At least for Warner Bros., who seems to get continually burned by it.
Dan Krovich: Superman needed to open on a Wednesday to get as many days in before Dead Man's Chest opens.
Tim Briody: My faith in Pirates 2 is suddenly shaken by Superman's performance, though. With all the sure things we saw before the first weekend in May, only one has really panned out so far.
David Mumpower: We'll get to that later in the discussion, but mine is not. This is simply a sign that Superman is not as inconic as it once was. There are two cartoons and a television series out there if people do want to see him. The product is too saturated.
Dan Krovich: Even if Superman ultimately loses some money, if it's not a complete bomb a sequel could still make some sense. It would be an odd case where they could make the sequel on a lower budget than the original.
Joel Corcoran: My faith is still intact. I think David nailed it - Warner Bros. can't market. Walt Disney Studios knows how to market anything - just look at Eight Below.
Superman 2: Dull and DullererDavid Mumpower: Dan, I am unsure if it gets a sequel as of now. If Superman Returns shows legs, that will go a long way in making it happen. If it follows that Hulk trend and only makes $70 million after opening weekend, I don't see the franchise as re-invigorated enough to move forward with a second film.
Reagen Sulewski: I can't see Warner Bros. giving up that easily. As Dan mentions, there were a lot of sunk costs into this film that won't be around for a sequel. Plus, it's a generally good film, and I suspect they're going to give it at least one more kick at the can.
Kim Hollis: I think there were a number of issues for Superman. Lots of people (including a co-worker of mine) were under the impression that it was just a direct remake of the first Christopher Reeve film. Others really weren't inclined to see a film that picked up where something left off more than two decades ago. And finally, Lex Luthor is an interesting villain in the comics, but he's not best for the films. I think Superman Returns would have been better off as a complete reboot.
Tim Briody: You can try to reboot, but people aren't going to forget the past.
David Mumpower: The difference is that the Batman franchise had shown strength in the past before the erratic caretaking of Joel Schumacher destroyed the franchise. People want to like Batman movies, but they had been burned before. After this long, Superman had a clean slate. If it had the level of appeal expected, we wouldn't be asking what went wrong right now.
Dan Krovich: The difference between Superman Returns and Batman Begins is about $100M in cost.
Kim Hollis: And it's also likely to be a lot different with regard to legs.
$50 million is the new $10 millionKim Hollis: Are we being too cynical when we describe a $50+ million opening in such harsh terms?
Joel Corcoran: No.
Tim Briody: Maybe people got it confused with the new ads for My Super Ex-Girlfriend.
David Mumpower: I was thinking about this yesterday. Entourage, the HBO sitcom, has been running a storyline where the fictional movie Aquaman breaks Spider-Man's opening weekend record. The day of its release, Vinnie Chase, the star of the show asks if a $50 million opening would be good. His manager/best friend looks at him and says "$50 million would be a disaster." It's so applicable to Superman Returns it's scary.
Dan Krovich: $50M+ is great if you're Fantastic Four, not so much if you're Superman.
Kim Hollis: That's right, Dan. Supes is a known commodity. He should have been, ahem, bulletproof.
David Mumpower: And as you said before, it circles back to budget and expectations. Fantastic Four had a budget of $100 million. Superman Returns is again over double that. These numbers don't occur in a vacuum. WB is trying out the "tentpole a quarter" strategy and it's killing their bottom line.
Joel Corcoran: It's all a matter of perspective. $50 million on a tentpole release involving a story beloved by fans all across the country and a production budget larger than the annual budget for the State of Nebraska is a disaster.
Tim Briody: Good jobs now available at Warner Bros. studios!
David Mumpower: Can you cut an entertaining trailer? Inquire within!
Joel Corcoran: And to think I just updated my resume this week!