Well, it looks like the battle is over before it started!
Warner Bros. announced yesterday, August 6, that it will move DC's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to March 25, 2016, away from Marvel's Captain America 3's May 6 date of the same year, proving that we were never going to see these two juggernauts go head-to-head on the same date. While many analysts speculated that it would me Marvel to back down, despite the fact they've had this date reserved since June 2013, it was Warner who blinked, while compensating their decision with an aggressive release schedule to rival Marvel's.
So what prompted the sudden swerve on Warner's part? The answer is simply in the numbers.
Marvel has been on a winning streak since 2012. The Avengers grossed an amazing $623 million domestic, and over $1.5 billion worldwide, beating out The Dark Knight Rises, which was predicted to own that Summer. Since then, all of Marvel's franchises received a sizable bump from their previous installments. Iron Man 3 grossed $409 million domestically over Iron Man 2's $312 million. Thor: The Dark World's $206 million exceeded Thor's $181 million, and Captain America: The Winter Solider earned $259 million domestically, beating not only Captain America: The First Avenger's $176 million domestic intake, but also that of The Dark World's. The most amazing thing is that both Thor and Captain America's latest installments succeeded outside of the typical Summer blockbuster months – The Dark World bowed in November 2013, while The Winter Solider debuted in April of this year.
What seemed to truly make the difference was Marvel's new franchise Guardians of the Galaxy's record-breaking $117.9 million intake in its first five days. Not only is this incredible, seeing that this is the first Marvel franchise not immediately connected to The Avengers and the first film to not take place on Earth, but it also means it's out-grossed 2011's Green Lantern, DC's potential franchise starter which also is primarily a cosmic film. A pretty impressive feat for a film that many analysts prematurely claimed would flop. With Guardians already tracking higher than The Winter Solider and proving that Marvel's brand is strong enough regardless of the source material, it surely cannot be mere coincidence that Warner would move Batman v Superman now.
As if jokes about a raccoon making Batman blink wasn't bad enough, the news really only seems to get worse for the DC superhero team-up. Thanks to films like The Hunger Games and The Winter Solider, studios are now releasing tentpoles in the March and April months to free up their Summer schedules, and March 2016 is going to be a busy one!
Films like the long-anticipated Warcraft film (March 11) and Allegiant Part 1 (March 18), the third film in the Divergent franchise, debut in the weeks before, while faith-based film Christ the Lord and the Beverly Hills Cop reboot bow on the same day as Batman v Superman, all of which can take away from its grosses. While Eddie Murphy's box office clout has severely diminished over the years, this long- awaited return to Axel Foley could certainly be the ticket he needs to restart his movie career. Also, this year's surge of Christian-based films made a small killing at the box office which could easily spill over into the years to come, and could mean an early sunset for Dawn of Justice.
Even so, it's still a little early to count Batman v Superman out completely. Even though it's opening just a little over a month after in the prime start-of-Summer spot, it is possible that Cap 3 can be affected by BvS opening first. This year, The Winter Solider opened almost exactly a month before The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which could have caused a burn off in demand for the latter comic book adaptation. Another example of this is The Avengers opening roughly two months prior to The Dark Knight Rises, though this example admittedly becomes mired by the tragic shootings in Aurora, CO, which surrounded the latter film, and may not be an apples-to-apples comparison.
To show that they are not shaken by this second schedule shift for Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. announced an aggressive release schedule that includes nine DC-based films between 2016 and 2020 after the release of BvS. This is clearly a ploy to rival Marvel's aggressive release calendar, that will see 11 new releases between 2015 and 2019. While it shows that DC is not backing down from the competition in general, it still seems a bit premature. Yes, Man of Steel's $291 million and The Dark Knight Rises' $448 million domestic intakes are both higher than The Winter Soldier and The Dark World's domestic totals, the differences lie in critical and audience reception. Though DC's last two films may have the greater domestic box office receipts, Marvel's films continue to win amazing reviews, which many analysts are attributing to Marvel's recent winning streak – considering the word-of-mouth has been carrying over from film to film.
Also, of the newly announced DC projects, all nine films are currently untitled, whereas Marvel Studios has announced four of their 11 slated films already – Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015), Ant-Man (July 17, 2015), Captain America 3 (May 6, 2016), and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (July 28, 2017), with a script treatment being written for Black Widow, and pre-production already starting on Doctor Strange and Black Panther. With still roughly 18 months to go before BvS bows, it seems like Warner is putting far too much pressure on one film -- a lesson they should have learned from Columbia Pictures' Amazing Spider-Man franchise on what not to do.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice moving away from Captain America 3 certainly should cause a breath of relief for any comic book and film fan who was having a hard time deciding which film to root for, and DC's promised nine new films should provide fanboys months of debate of what will be coming our way. But, despite all this, it's still hard to imagine Warner Bros. decision isn't based on the knowledge or belief they can no longer compete with Marvel on any real level.
Don't agree with me? Have some interesting theories as to what's coming from DC? Sound off below!