12 July 2006

COMMENT: Superman Returns Sequel Hinges on $200m

For those who thought I was off the mark with my speculation over Superman Returns' not broaching $200 million domestically, rumor has it that the suits at Warner Brothers are worried it won't make that much and have made it the line in the sand on whether or not a sequel gets made:

After a $225 million "Pirates of the Caribbean" sailed into port, taking the wind out of "Superman Returns'" $205 million Spandex, Warner Bros. executives are said to be circumspect as to whether the Man of Steel will fly again.

Talent agency insiders with ties to the film tell TMZ that Warner Bros. Pictures president and COO Alan Horn has informed agents that a sequel hinges on whether grosses of "Superman Returns" can crest the $200 million mark domestically. What's more, the studio plans to shave millions - many millions - off any "Superman" sequel's budget. (Amusingly, in the current "Superman Returns," Lois Lane pleads with Lex Luthor, "But millions will die! " It turns out she was right on the money.)

...Despite opening at No. 1 in all its territories, overseas, the Man of Steel is starting to look just a bit rusty. The just-ended World Cup meant that Warner Bros. took a pass on European and Latin American territories, and its second weekend in release overseas, "Superman Returns" dipped 55% to take in $9 million from 1,800 prints in 14 markets.
Rusty, indeed, as $200m seems even less likely after a disappointing Monday saw Pirates pull in another $18m while Superman only managed to scrape up $2.6m, barely beating The Devil Wears Prada which is running in nearly 1/3rd fewer theaters, and leaving it $55m short of the newly shifted goal post.

If it's not at least at $175m after this coming weekend -- $31m between yesterday and Sunday -- then it's dead in the water because the following weekend it's going to get pushed out of at least half the 4000+ theaters it opened in and then disappear completely by the middle of August. Considering it's only pulled in $40m since the extended Fourth of July weekend, half of which came over its second weekend when it experienced a 58% drop, the odds don't look very good for the Man of Steel.

Warner Bros. is going to have to invest heavily in a big promotional push this week to have any chance of saving face. Coincidentally, I saw a new [to me] trailer last night that focused on Superman doing super things with a tagline of "Imagine... flying higher... going faster... being stronger... than you ever believed."

Now that's a friggin' tagline on par with "You'll Believe a Man Can Fly!"

If they'd led off with this particular trailer and based an entire campaign around that tagline, they'd have had a much better opening weekend and now be worrying about hitting $250m and casting the sequel instead of crossing their fingers over $200m and having accountants determine its fate, rarely a good thing when it comes to creative endeavors.

PS: Charles LePage (of ComicList fame) posted a link to a scathing Pauline Kael review of Superman: The Movie over at Comics Worth Reading and some of her criticisms seem to have ironically been repeated in the less-glowing reviews of Superman Returns.


Emperor Nerd said...

Worse yet, I think the disappointing grosses for Superman may cripple the budgets of any second tier properties in the pipe at DC & WB. A Batman sequel and Wonder Woman will ger funded, but the studio just won't give films like Flash & Green Lantern the money they need to be top notch films.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Oh, I think that goes without question. If a worldwide icon like Superman doesn't merit a $150 million budget, there's no way in the world a Flash or Green Lantern gets more than $50 million, and then only with an A-list star and/or director.