The Financial Express - - FRONT PAGE -

BAT­MAN v Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice steam­rolled past records, de­but­ing to a gar­gan­tuan $170.1 mil­lion over Easter week­end de­spite be­ing pil­lo­ried by crit­ics. That ranks as the top open­ing week­end for a DC Comics film, the best March launch ever, and the sixth big­gest do­mes­tic open­ing week­end of all-time.

It’s a shot in the arm for Warner Bros, which has been reel­ing from a se­ries of costly bombs such as “Jupiter Ascending” and “Pan,” and is look­ing to the Dark Knight and Man of Steel throw down to kick off a se­ries of in­ter­con­nected comic book fran­chises. Warner Bros has al­ready an­nounced re­lease dates for se­quels and spin-offs for the next five years, with the first of these su­per­hero ad­ven­tures, “Sui­cide Squad,” com­ing out in Au­gust.

“This sets us up well,” said Jeff Gold­stein, Warner Bros distri­bu­tion ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent. “We’re very proud of what we’ve made be­fore in the DC world and what’s com­ing in front of us is re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

The stu­dio spared no ex­pense, tap­ping Ben Af­fleck to as­sume Bat­man’s cape and cowl, bring­ing back “Man of Steel” di­rec­tor Zack Sny­der and Su­per­man star Henry Cav­ill, and shelling out $250 mil­lion in pro­duc­tion ex­penses, as well as millions more in pro­mo­tional raz­zle daz­zle.

The bet ap­pears to have paid off, po­si­tion­ing DC and Warn­ers to have the kind of cin­e­matic uni­verse of cos­tumed heroes and vil­lains that ri­val Mar­vel has lever­aged to enor­mous prof­its.

It also un­der­cuts the in­flu­ence of top crit­ics. Re­views for “Bat­man v Su­per­man” were with­er­ing — the New York Times’ A.O. Scott said see­ing the film is “… about as divert­ing as hav­ing a porce­lain sink bro­ken over your head” — but au­di­ences didn’t care. They were kinder to the pic­ture too, giv­ing the film a B Cine­maS­core grade.

“It’s the fans that speak the loud­est,” said Jeff Bock, a box of­fice an­a­lyst for Ex­hibitor Re­la­tions. “It proves how strong these char­ac­ters are.”

The film’s au­di­ence was largely male (66%) and crowds tended to be younger, with 63% of ticket buy­ers rang­ing be­tween the ages of 18 and 34. Imax show­ings con­trib­uted $18 mil­lion to the gross, premium large for­mat screens added an es­ti­mated $17 mil­lion to the ear nings, 3D screens were re­spon­si­ble for 40% of the open­ing week­end re­sults, and RealD 3D ac­counted for an es­ti­mated $47 mil­lion of the to­tal.

“The film­mak­ers de­liv­ered ex­pe­ri­en­tially on some­thing that can best be seen in movie the­aters,” said Greg Fos­ter, CEO of Imax En­ter­tain­ment. “This is not a movie that any one wants to see in a small venue.”Last­week­end’schamp, “Zootopia,” slid to sec­ond place, rack­ing up $23.1 mil­lion to push the fam­ily film’s do­mes­tic to­tal to $240.5 mil­lion. Glob­ally, the Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion block­buster has earned $696.7 mil­lion, push­ing it past the likes of “Tan­gled,” “Big Hero 6,” and “Rata­touille.”

In third place, Univer­sal scored a counter-pro­gram­ming suc­cess with “My Big Fat Greek Wed­ding 2.” The ro­man­tic com­edy pulled in fe­male crowds not in­ter­ested in watch­ing the su­per­hero beat­down, earn­ing a solid $18.1 mil­lion from 3,133 lo­ca­tions. “It’s not so much to do with strat­egy and po­si­tion­ing as it is just a fun film,” said Nick Car­pou, Univer­sal’s distri­bu­tion chief. “‘It’s about fam­ily and ev­ery­one has that ex­pe­ri­ence and can re­late to a lot of what’s in the film and the way peo­ple care for each other in the story.”

“My Big Fat Greek Wed­ding 2” is a fol­low-up to the 2002 box of­fice phe­nom­e­non, which grossed $368 mil­lion at the global box of­fice. Gold Cir­cle En­ter­tain­ment, HBO and Play­tone pro­duced the se­quel for $18 mil­lion and brought back orig­i­nal stars Nia Varda­los and John Cor­bett.

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