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‘Justice League’ limps to box office win with worst debut in franchise history

Justice League Snyder Cut
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The long-awaited premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures’ live-action superhero team-up film Justice League was anything but super, and the underachieving film paired its poor early reviews with an even more underwhelming opening weekend at the box office.

The $96 million debut for Justice League in U.S. theaters is the lowest of any film in WB’s cinematic universe based on DC Comics characters, and well below the early projections that had it raking in at least $120 million from Thursday’s “preview” screenings and the three-day weekend. Given that the film was intended to be WB’s equivalent to The Avengers, uniting all of the studio’s primary superhero characters on the same screen for a joint adventure, its debut was particularly bad and will likely lead to some hard questions about future projects that were announced but had yet to begin production.

For reference, The Avengers currently holds the record for the biggest opening weekend of all time for a superhero movie with its $207.4 million debut in 2012. Marvel Studios’ next team-up film, 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, has the second-biggest opening weekend of all time for superhero movies with $191.2 million.

# Title  Weekend    U.S. Total   Worldwide Total 
1. Justice League $96M $96M $281.5M
2. Wonder $27M $27M $27M
3. Thor: Ragnarok $21.7M $247.3M $738M
4. Daddy’s Home 2 $14.8M $50.5M $51M
5. Murder on the Orient Express $13.8M $51.7M $148.2M
6. The Star $10M $10M $10M
7. A Bad Moms Christmas $6.8M $50.9M $77.5M
8. Lady Bird $2.5M $4.7M $4.7M
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri $1.1M $1.5M $1.5M
10. Jigsaw $1M $36.4M $88.8M

As for the rest of the weekend’s top 10 films, family-friendly drama Wonder surprised many box-office pundits with its impressive $27 million debut and A+ grade on CinemaScore (as well as an 84-percent positive review on RottenTomatoes), while faith-based animated feature The Star finished in sixth place with a respectable $10 million.

Circling back to Justice League, though, it’s worth noting that the reviews for the film weren’t actually the worst of WB’s superhero cinematic universe so far.

The 39-percent positive rating that Justice League currently holds on RottenTomatoes is more favorable than that of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (27 percent) and Suicide Squad (26 percent), and its B+ grade on audience polling site CinemaScore is better than Batman v Superman (B) and on par with Suicide Squad (B+). Overall, the critical reception to Justice League puts it right in the middle, set between the positively received Wonder Woman and Man of Steel, and the two aforementioned films that weren’t received as kindly.

Of the five films in the studio’s “DC Extended Universe” franchise, Wonder Woman still reigns supreme for critical reception with 92-percent positive reviews from critics and an A grade.

With Wonder Woman the only bona fide critical and commercial success for the DCEU, the sequel to that film is certain to happen, and the studio has already finished production on its Aquaman solo movie for a premiere in December 2018. The fate of the rest of the studio’s projects isn’t as certain, even with Shazam! finalizing deals with its stars recently and some buzz about the Batman and Flash solo movies.

This upcoming week’s biggest release is the Disney-Pixar animated feature Coco, which is expected to have a big debut in theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. How Justice League and Wonder fare over the extended week in competition with the latest Pixar project will likely say a lot about both films’ futures.

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Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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