11. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – $329 million
Let’s get the controversial pick out of the way first. This film doesn’t really belong on this list, but it would be a crime not to mention how big of a letdown Batman v Superman was for the studio, especially when it was rumored that their minimum target was to earn $1 billion worldwide in ticket sale.
I know there’s a select group of passionate fans for Zack Snyder’s much-derided blockbuster, but let’s hear out the facts. Man of Steel (2013) opened to a lukewarm response from fans and grossed $291 million in domestic dollars. That’s a fine amount that translates to 38 million tickets – only 4 million tickets more than Bryan Singer’s “failed” Superman Returns (2006)…
Somehow the sequel that is BvS, with the addition of the characters Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lex Luthor (not to mention some Justice League cameos) only added $39 million to its predecessor’s total. This is an alarming number when you consider a few key things.
First, Batman v Superman earned a fantastic $166 million opening weekend, the largest opening weekend in non-adjusted dollars for any DC-based film. The bad news is that the opening weekend accounted for more than half of the film’s total gross. That means audiences showed up right away, and many didn’t care for what they saw. It could have been the trashing from critics, sure, but I think its unenthusiastic ‘B’ Cinemascore was also telling of audience satisfaction.
Second, taken as a Superman movie, it was one of the more popular sellers overall – just about matching the tickets sold for Superman II (1980). However, when compared to the Batman franchise installments – BvS did not even sell as many tickets as Batman Returns (1992) or, gulp, Batman Forever (1995). When compared to Christopher Nolan’s much-loved Dark Knight sequels, the numbers look rather embarrassing. In fact, BvS barely sold half of the tickets that The Dark Knight (2008) did in America.
Does a $329 million U.S./$871 million worldwide total technically qualify as a box office bomb? Absolutely not. But considering the enormous popularity of the Batman film franchise, as well as the showdown/match-up between the two DC comic book titans, there’s no reason that this film shouldn’t have been way bigger, and way more crowd-pleasing. Just ask Jeremy Irons…