The weekend estimates are in, and Justice League has sputtered to an underwhelming $96 million domestic box office take for its opening weekend. The movie not only underperformed Warner Bros.' hopes of finally breaking a billion dollars globally for a DCEU movie and launching the next phase of the beleaguered superhero movie universe, but even managed to underperform the industry's recent adjusted projections, which predicted a $110 million opening for Justice League.
Though $96 million would be a good opening weekend for almost any other movie, Justice League, by all conventional wisdom, should have been a massive hit on par with top-tier franchises like Star Wars or Marvel's Avengers. Instead, for whatever reason you want to attribute it to — studio interference, Zack Snyder's flawed vision (or lack of vision), Joss Whedon, Rotten Tomatoes, biased critics, Donald Trump — Justice League will go down as having the lowest box office opening of the entire DCEU.
Yes, Justice League somehow managed to be less than the sum of its parts, earning a lower box office take on opening weekend than Man of Steel ($116M), Batman v Superman ($166M), and Wonder Woman ($103M). It even failed to live up to the opening weekend take of Suicide Squad ($133M), which featured characters far less familiar to the general public.
And unlike the last DCEU movie, Wonder Woman, which was praised by both fans and critics, Justice League has a 40% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes and has been panned online, which will almost certainly affect future weekend drops as the movie goes up against Disney's Coco next week, The Shape of Water on December 8th, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15th. Stiff competition and poor word of mouth will hurt Justice League's long-term potential, making the movie an all-around disaster for Warner Bros. and the DCEU.
On the bright side, Justice League has been doing well internationally, earning almost double its domestic take with $185 million overseas. Additionally, the film's audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is 85%, showing moviegoers who actually went to see it enjoyed it far more than critics. That score is higher than Man of Steel (75%), Batman v. Superman (63%), and Suicide Squad (61%), and only a few points behind Wonder Woman (89%). That audience appreciation could carry over to future DCEU films, which are driven as much by audience's memories of past entries as they are by current buzz.
In the coming months, Warner Bros. will need to seriously consider the future direction of their cinematic universe. There's still a chance that future films can follow the trajectory of Wonder Woman, but Justice League may have squandered some of the good will earned by that film.
Then again, with Ben Affleck likely on the way out, DC will have another shot at revitalizing the franchise with a standalone Batflick sans Batfleck, along with an out-of-continuity Joker movie, sequels to Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad, a Green Lantern reboot, Flashpoint, and Gotham City Sirens. If Warner Bros. learns some hard lessons from Justice League, it could result in a better and more successful DCEU in the future. Hopefully, Justice League's failure doesn't have negative consequences for those other films in the years to come.