Justice League is still limping its way around the box office, and now the number crunchers are starting to figure out exactly how much this epic team-up could cost Warner Bros. when it comes to the studio’s bottom line. Put simply: It’s not looking good.
Forbes reports the film stands to lose $50-100 million for Warner Bros., based on educated projections such as the film’s $300 million production budget and $150 million marketing price tag. The film already had the lowest U.S. opening for any DCEU film at $96 million, and these projections assume it will also track to a lower overall global take once the theatrical run comes to an end. Considering the mediocre critical reception and so-so word of mouth, that makes sense.
Warner Bros. pumped a whole lot of time, energy, and cash into Justice League — banking on the hope that pretty much everyone would turn out to see DC’s biggest heroes together for the first time. But the law of diminishing returns has finally caught up with this shared universe, following a string of releases where only one movie (Wonder Woman) actually garnered some critical buzz. Audiences turned out for Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in the hopes that Warner Bros. would eventually figure this out, and judging by the reviews, most viewers were burned. Twice. It seems a whole lot of folks were a bit more cautious with their ticket-buying cash this time around.
Taking a write-down on a would-be blockbuster is nothing new in Hollywood, but for a franchise that’s supposed to be a bankable money-maker for Warner Bros., this will no doubt have some fallout. The most obvious course correction would be to simply avoid another $300+ million budget, which ballooned between the effects work and extensive reshoots and revisions after Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film following Zack Snyder’s exit. Not surprisingly, it’s a lot easier to get a $150 million movie into profitability than a $300 million movie.
But the real problem might hint at something deeper. If Justice League can’t crack $100 million, does it represent a growing apathy for the direction DC is taking this universe itself? Aquaman is already in the can, so the studio will almost certainly be waiting with bated breath to see how it's received next year.
What do you think? Why is Justice League likely poised to be a money loser?