It looked like Warner Bros. had a much-needed winner when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice broke box office records during its opening week, in spite of critics finding much to be desired in the dark flick. However, the film’s second week — which saw a reported 69 percent drop in box office revenue — was a rude awakening, adding to a string of mediocre performances that reportedly have left the studio reeling.
Sources tell THR that Warner Bros. is reevaluating its film strategy after seeing multiple films, including 2015’s Pan and Jupiter Ascending, fail to live up to expectations. Instead, the studio is said to be looking to focus more on its big-name franchises, potentially with the result of releasing fewer movies. For its part, Warner Bros. insists that output will remain high, telling the publication that it is set to release 18 movies in 2016 and 19 in 2017. “Warner Bros. has historically had the biggest, most diverse slate in the motion picture industry,” said a rep in a statement to THR.
Certain industry insiders, however, feel the studio is greenlighting fewer “homegrown movies” and instead is putting its eggs in baskets like Lego, and Harry Potter spin-offs, as well as (interestingly) doubling down on DC, despite the critical response. (The fact that Warner Bros. just set upcoming release dates for two untitled DC Comics films, as reported by Deadline, appears to support that claim.) It’s a strategy we’ve seen other studios adopt, notably Disney, whose installments in popular franchises have far outnumbered its original live-action films in recent years. After the massive year that Disney had in 2015, its no wonder Warner Bros. may be inspired to follow suit.
While continuing to bet on DC might seem odd given the current climate, it’s important to note that Batman v Superman will still end up being a profitable venture. What’s really strange is the fact that Warner Bros. managed to stumble with the film at all. Batman v Superman should be going gangbusters. After all, this is a film that includes three of the most beloved comic book characters of all time: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. On top of that, the studio worked with a healthy budget of a reported $250 million.
Warner Bros. execs are said to be shocked by the response to Batman v Superman, so clearly the studio has larger problems. Moving forward, Warner Bros. needs to do more than just focus on its major franchises; popular actors and characters can only go so far. It’s evident the studio needs to work on creating movies fans and critics alike will appreciate. Batman v Superman was obviously a miss in both regards; the flick is rated a paltry 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes‘ Tomatometer, while the audience’s “Liked It” rating is a mediocre 70 percent (at the time of publishing). By comparison, the numbers for Marvel’s most recent superhero film, Deadpool, are 83 percent and 92 percent, respectively.
Warner Bros. has ample opportunity to redeem itself with its various upcoming DC Comics flicks, but whether or not the studio will make any drastic changes remains to be seen. There’s been speculation that the studio will switch up the creative team for the two upcoming Justice League movies, but there are nothing more than idle rumors at this point. In the meantime, the David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad is opening August 5, and it will hopefully leave fans with a better impression of the DC Comics cinematic universe.