As the “summer blockbuster” season moves up another month each year, Warner Bros. decided to kick off the 2016 blockbuster period a little earlier by announcing that “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” will now be opening on March 25, 2016 instead of the previously slated May 6 time frame.
That was a wise move as “BvS” doesn’t need to go against the Marvel Studios juggernaut’s initial 2016 offering, “Captain America 3.” Beyond that, Warner Bros. positioned themselves to have some decent bragging rights come the end of 2016.
As of today, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which was released April 4 remains the highest grossing domestic film of 2014 with $259 million.
With the exception of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which is $18 million behind “Winter Soldier,” every other 2014 release hasn’t come close to Cap’s sequel, including two other superhero films “X-Men: Days of Future Past” ($231 million) and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” ($202.6 million).
While there’s no science to it, getting the jump on Cap 3 may be exactly what WB needs to regain some much needed momentum for its fledgling line of comic book films.
So who emerged from the shift the biggest winners and who really lost out with this scheduling date change?
Winners: Warner Bros
There’s little chance that “BvS” won’t obliterate the all-time March records. Here’s how that breaks down for the last decade plus (figures courtesy www.boxofficemojo.com)
- 2014 – Divergent ($150 million)
- 2013 – Oz the Great and Powerful ($234 million)
- 2012 – The Hunger Games ($408 million)
- 2011 – Rango ($123.5)
- 2010 – Alice in Wonderland ($334.2 million)
- 2009 – Monsters Vs. Aliens ($198.4 million)
- 2008 – Horton Hears a Who! ($154 million)
- 2007 – 300 – ($210 million)
- 2006 – Ice Age 2 ($195.3 million)
- 2005 – Robots ($128.2 million)
- 2004 – Starsky and Hutch ($88.2 million)
- 2003 – Bringing Down the House ($132 million)
- 2002 – Ice Age ($176.4 million)
- 2001 – Spy Kids ($112.7 million)
- 2000 – Erin Brockovich ($125.6 million)
- 1999 – The Matrix ($171.5 million)
Losers: Studios producing family movies
Eight of the 16 highest grossing films in March were family films and the animated fare will come up short. “Clifford the Big Red Dog” opens the following weekend, but Universal Pictures may want to reconsider moving it to another date.
Winners: Superman and Batman
Last June, “Man of Steel” earned $291 million in a heated 2013 summer season. With less competition, Superman should soar in this not quite sequel. Batman doesn’t exactly need the help as “The Dark Knight Rises” earned a stellar $448.12 million in July 2012 and that was after a tragedy significantly impacted its gross.
Murphy’s “Beverly Hills Cop 4” was already booked for March 26, but with Superman and Batman swooping in, few are going to check out his return to one of his most iconic roles. And Ratner was getting back into an action/comedy cop movie — his niche following three “Rush Hour” films. Now the comeback attempt for both has been seriously derailed.
By refusing to back down from its now standard first weekend in May release date, Marvel Studios made it clear that it’s the alpha studio and any film coming into its backyard needs a clear plan or it will get punked out. And less superhero competition means more money for “Cap 3.”
Loser: Warner Bros.’ pride
“BvS” was originally set for July 2015 before WB moved it in an unprecedented game of chicken by staking claim to the first weekend in May release that Marvel Studios has held since 2008 with “Iron Man.” By switching dates, even for the right reasons, WB execs look like they know even the top two superheroes in all pop culture aren’t enough to topple Chris Evans’ Captain America.
Not that people can’t see both over the weekend, but audiences have come to treat a new comic book film like a major movie-going event. Now and that excitement can be carried over through months instead of one insanely, but probably, really awesome weekend.