Industry Expert Expects DCEU to Mostly Focus on Solo Movies Moving Forward

In the wake of the blockbuster success lassoed by Warner Bros.’ superhero solos Wonder Woman and [...]

In the wake of the blockbuster success lassoed by Warner Bros.' superhero solos Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian expects the DC Extended Universe to put a primary focus on standalone adventures.

"I think they're in a really good spot right now, and perhaps the lesson learned from Aquaman and Wonder Woman will carry forward," Dergarabedian told CNBC.

"Every individual studio has their own identity, and they don't always have to chase what the others are doing."

A focus on its individual heroes, instead of its wider shared universe home to Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck), will further separate the DCEU from chief rival Disney-owned Marvel Studios, whose interconnected 20-movie franchise often pays off with crossovers and team-ups, mostly in the form of its entries in the blockbuster Avengers franchise.

Other cross-pollination and smaller team-ups happen — Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) featured in Thor: Ragnarok, while Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) features in both Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home — but the frequent intermixing of franchises remains a large part of the Marvel Studios appeal.

The DCEU has had less success in that arena than Marvel, who built up to its ambitious 2012 crossover The Avengers before later uniting almost all of its franchises in last year's Avengers: Infinity War.

Warner Bros.' DC Comics-inspired filmic universe, launched with solo Superman reboot Man of Steel in 2013, widened the scope of the DCEU with its second movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in 2016. A clear prequel to superhero crossover-slash-team-up Justice League, the Zack Snyder-directed film introduced a weary Batman alongside the first live-action Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) on the big screen.

That blockbuster also served up cameos for other future Justice Leaguers planned to assemble in that film before being spun off into their own offshoots, including bit roles for Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller).

Batman v Superman took in $873 million worldwide, a lesser-than-expected haul for the first live-action feature teaming two of the comic book in industry's most famous icons.

That forced some changes for the handling of Justice League, which emerged in November 2017 as the lowest-earning DCEU entry with just $657 million worldwide; this despite the newfound popularity earned by Gadot's Amazon warrior, whose own Patty Jenkins-directed blockbuster roped up a massive $821 million at the global box office.

The studio has yet to announce plans for a second Justice League.

It was James Wan's Aquaman that surfaced as the biggest financial success of the DCEU, swimming to $1.063 billion worldwide — crowning it the first DCEU entry to achieve the feat and the first DC Comics movie to cross a billion since 2012's The Dark Knight Rises.

Even as solo films push the DCEU forward, Warner Bros. isn't forgoing multi-hero movies entirely: Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie next headlines Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), featuring DC heroines Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (June Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

Also planned by the studio is a Suicide Squad sequel — to be penned and possibly directed by Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn — and a long-gestating spinoff, Gotham City Sirens, developed by David Ayer as a team-up between Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. Green Lantern Corps, now being scripted by Geoff Johns, will focus on a team of the ring-powered superheroes.

Recent months have brought a flurry of announced projects centered around typically solo heroes, including Supergirl, Batgirl, Zatanna, Blue Beetle, and Plastic Man. Matt Reeves' The Batman, which could start shooting later this year, is believed to highlight a younger Batman and is not expected to include wards Robin or Nightwing.

Warner Bros. next releases Shazam! April 5, followed by Joker — set outside the DCEU — October 4. Birds of Prey is set for February 7, 2020, ahead of Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020.