Justice League should have been one of the most-anticipated movies of all time — the DCEU's answer to Marvel's Avengers — but early box office signs show the movie is set to underperform just like its DCEU predecessors.
Originally tracking for a $110 million to $120 million domestic opening, estimates now place Justice League at making just $93 million. That's not a terrible number, but not what one expects from what should be a flagship franchise. Wonder Woman made $103 million in its opening weekend, and positive word of mouth helped it to keep making money in subsequent weeks. But Justice League has been poorly reviewed with a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score, so word of mouth is unlikely to drive future box office success (even if Rotten Tomatoes, partially owned by Warner Bros., tried to hide the score until the day before the movie's release).
Justice League needed a strong box office opening to have hopes of breaking the billion dollar global milestone, a feat accomplished by The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: Civil War. No DCEU movie has been able to break that barrier, though the previous generation of DC movies managed to do it twice with The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
To be sure, the movies haven't performed abysmally, but with the exception of Wonder Woman, whose $821 million worldwide take broke records and was considered a triumph, movies like Batman v Superman were expected to perform better than the $873 million worldwide that it ended up earning.
Rather than learning from what made Wonder Woman successful — making a movie that people liked and spoke positively about — Warner Bros. seems to have reverted back to the same tactics that made Dawn of Justice so underwhelming: using the same screenwriter and director who blew it the first time. Batman v Superman, by the way, opened with $166 million (and experienced steep drops in subsequent weekends). With Justice League potentially earning $70 million less than that in its first weekend, chances of performing even as well as its predecessor look unlikely.
The DCEU isn't an epic failure. It's just not the success it could be if it could somehow avoid the constant drumbeat of negative attention that limits its earning potential. The DCEU is a solid B+ player in the blockbuster franchise world, which would be good thing for almost any franchise other than one consisting of arguably the most well-known superheroes in the world.
You can't save your cinematic universe alone, Warner Bros. You need the support of critics and fans to make Justice League the billion-dollar franchise it deserves to be. Well, there's always Wonder Woman 2.