Now, if there’s one thing in Hollywood that’s tough to define, it’s what’s makes a movie ‘a hit’. After all, while everyone can agree that making more than, say, a billion dollars makes you a success, the same is equally true of a low-budget movie making $100 million. What’s more, while The Avengers was widely seen as one of the biggest hits of all time with its $1.5 billion total, its sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron was seen as a mild disappointment with ‘only’ 1.4 billion. Context, then, is key – as are the expectations set by past releases, and the increased income needed to turn a profit with higher production budgets.
What happens, though, when we can’t collectively agree on what is, or isn’t, a hit? No-one, after all, is arguing that last year’s Fantastic Four was anything other than a flop (it was critically skewered, and only managed a $167 million global gross off of a $120 million budget), much as no-one is arguing that Captain America: Civil War wasn’t a huge success (it made $1.1 billion worldwide off of a $250 million budget, and received glowing reviews). What, though, of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? With a final box office total of $872 million off of a $250 million budget, Batman v Superman should surely be seen as a huge hit – and yet for many, it remains one of 2016’s biggest box office disappointments. Context, y’see, remains king.
Why Isn’t Batman v Superman Seen As A Huge Hit, Then?
Well, Batman v Superman may have made a record-breaking $166 million in its opening weekend at the US box office, but a combination of terrible reviews and an unusually large (69.1%) drop off in takings by the second weekend of release took much of the shine off of that success. Similarly, while a $872 million global total would be a major success for most franchises, Warner Bros. was widely suspected to have set a billion dollar total as the movie’s yardstick for success, with the perception being that the newly formed DC Extended Universe needed to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and its $10 billion dollars in international earnings and counting). Batman v Superman‘s inability to hit that mark then, along with its divisive critical reception from journalists and fans alike, has given it more of the feel of a flop than a hit, despite it turning a relatively small, yet solid, profit.
With Suicide Squad‘s recent release sharing many of the qualities of Batman v Superman‘s though (a critical drubbing, a record-breaking opening-weekend, a divided fan response, and the suspicion of a big drop off on the second weekend), it seems worth asking the question:
Can Suicide Squad Redefine Hollywood’s Idea Of A ‘Hit’ DC Movie?
After all, for many fans – especially those who loved Suicide Squad – the idea that any film that broke box office records on its release – and made $135 million dollars in the process – could be in any way a failure seems faintly ridiculous. That, combined with widespread antagonism towards a perceived bias in the media against the DCEU, has led to three entirely different perceptions of the movie’s level of success.
1. For fans of the film, it’s looking like a huge hit, which overcame an unfair critical barrage to make cinema history.
2. For critics of the film, it’s looking like Batman v Superman all over again, where early interest gave the film a record-breaking opening weekend that was ultimately undermined in the weeks that followed by a negative fan response. And…
3. For folks in the industry, it’s looking like a gigantic headache.
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The big, headache-causing problem for those industry folks, though?
It’s Actually Genuinely Tough To Tell Whether Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad Are Hits For Warner Bros.
After all, for a studio executive at Warner Bros., the severe drop-off in box office takings that Batman v Superman saw, and that is widely predicted for Suicide Squad, is inevitably seriously troubling. Even with the vocal support of a minority of fans, such a drop-off – along with poor reviews and overall fan-ratings – seems to clearly signal that many audience members have been dissatisfied with the product that they paid to see. Which was, in turn, why both Suicide Squad and next year’s Justice League seemed to be immediately re-tooled in less serious and more overtly accessible directions in the wake of Batman v Superman’s release.
Should Suicide Squad show a similar box-office drop-off to Batman v Superman, then, it’s easy to imagine senior suits at Warner Bros. seeing the film’s eventual total (likely to be close to $300 million domestically, and somewhere shy of Batman v Superman‘s $872 million in total) as a missed opportunity, rather than a glowing success. This would be despite record-breaking opening weekends, and a distinctly boisterous fan response from some quarters. In the face of that disappointment, though…
Could Hollywood Change Its Mind About What Constitutes A Hit?
Specifically, could a large opening weekend come to be seen as being just as important as an overall total (so long as the film ultimately turns a profit) – and a negative critical response come to be seen as somewhat inevitable for certain movie projects, including those in the DCEU? That. after all, is the position many fans of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad are now taking – arguing that critics are out of touch, if not actively biased, and that a comparatively low final box office tally to, say, Marvel Studios, isn’t actually all that big of a deal.
For studios, though, that would mark an extremely substantial change in approach, with the large profit margins from ‘tentpole’ productions like the DCEU and MCU having long propped up smaller, riskier projects, and franchise’s positive critical reception having been widely seen as a key component in their longevity. Were films like Suicide Squad instead to begin to be seen as ‘niche’ products – superhero movies that alienate many, say, but that energize a core audience of hardcore fans – it’s possible that the likes of Warner Bros. could opt to accept the franchise’s box office limitations in its current state, and indeed embrace the darker, less accessible nature of the DCEU.
Could Suicide Squad Still Be Seen As A Definite ‘Hit’ Then?
After all, in the scenario above, the likes of Suicide Squad could well be defined as a hit, irrespective of their ultimate total, much as an indie movie with a $5 million dollar budget would be widely lauded for opening to $10 million, or finishing up with a $100 million total. They would, in effect, join the ranks of Fox’s X-Men movies in the ‘mid-level’ blockbuster club, where an acceptance of finite fan interest seems to lower the barrier for being considered a hit (for the X-Men movies, for instance, Batman v Superman‘s $872 million total would have been an unprecedented success).
That, though, may still be a step too far for Warner Bros, and for Hollywood, with DC’s elite properties (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and The Joker) still widely seen as being capable of reaching the same box office heights as the MCU’s big hitters. Should Suicide Squad see a large drop-off this coming weekend, then, it’s entirely possible that Warner Bros. – and the industry at large – will take it as a sign of contextual failure, rather than finite success.
That Being Said, Hopefully The Squad Will Still Stay ‘Friends’, Either Way…
The big question now, though?
What do you think?
Do you think Suicide Squad is/will be a hit, or not?0 Votes
Staff Writer, Superheroes, Star Wars and such. Bad jokes aplenty. Follow at @kitsb1