It's been an exciting week for fans of Superman, as Warner Bros' "Superman Returns" debuted on Wednesday (with preview screenings on Tuesday) and produced respectable results, as CBR News reported earlier this week. We've also made mention of the importance this weekend plays in establishing "Superman Returns" as a box office juggernaut, as Disney's "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" hits theatres July 7th and is expected to be number one at the box office. So how did Big Blue do on his first Friday at the cinema in 19 years?
Box office estimates put the film at $16.76 million, a number that is an increase on Thursday's $11 million box office performance, but not as strong as some had hoped. To compare, we're going to use similar genre films that have debuted in the summer over past years, such as "War Of The Worlds," "Spider-Man 2," and Warner Bros' other big superhero film, "Batman Begins." All these films debuted close to this time of year ("Batman" was an early June release), on Wednesdays, and appealed to the same audiences. The Man Of Steel compares favorably to these films, but with an estimated $300 million budget, it's reasonable to expect that there might be more pressure on "Superman Returns" to blow away the competition.
"Superman Returns'" Friday estimates certainly pass "Batman Begins'" $15 million Friday and aren't too far from "War Of The Worlds'" $21 million Friday total, but the real difference is when the box office numbers are put against "Spider-Man 2." You've probably seen headlines framing the "Returns" box office against that of "Spider-Man 2," as the two characters may be the most recognizable superheroes on the planet and appeal to the largest audiences. And who can forget the infamous "You're not Superman, you know?" line to Peter Parker in the first "Spider-Man" film? Spidey's second film had a colossal first Friday, garnering $32.45 million dollars and still managed a $13 million take the next Friday. Put in this light, the Bryan Singer helmed film isn't quite threatening to overtake the wall-crawler any time soon as king of the cinema.
The argument has been made that this Superman film launches a new franchise and should be compared to similar franchise launching films, instead of "Spider-Man 2," which benefited from the strong fan following generated by the first film. It's certainly a valid argument and viewed in that light, WB is on track to exceed the box office revenue from last year's "Batman Begins," which generated over $200 million at the box office, and is ahead of "Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring," which found it's Friday returns to be a mere $14 million and still made over $300 million domestically.
So is "Superman Returns" a failure? No, definitely not. The film will be number one at the box office this weekend. It's outpacing its darker brother, "Batman Begins," and will likely have a $60 million opening weekend (Saturday trends a few million higher than Friday's ticket sales and Sunday trends a million lower than Friday, but this being a holiday weekend it throws those estimates into flux). The film also has huge appeal to the global audience and there's little chance we won't see a sequel. The film is a critical darling, uncommon for the much maligned superhero film genre, and the general fan response is positive, both of which are successes for "Superman Returns."
CBR News will report back on Monday to let you know how the weekend treated the Last Son Of Krypton and we'll continue to monitor the box office results.