What Batman V Superman Needs To Gross To Break Even

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With the two biggest superheroes of all time in the leads and a massive investment in hype from the studio, it seems on the face of it like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is destined to be a huge success.

Observers, though, have been torn on just what the movie is likely to earn during its theatrical run, and with a massive budget and a half-dozen films whose fates are tied to its performance, there's been a lot of navel-gazing about what constitutes turning a profit, what constitutes living up to expectations, and overall, what Warner Bros. will feel about Batman V Superman after it's made its theatrical debut in two weeks.

Variety has the latest attempt to make sense of it all, and they essentially reiterate a lot of what you've already heard.

Batman V Superman, they say, was incredibly expensive to make. A lot of analysts have said that $800 million is the magical break-even number for the movie, since it cost about $400 million between production and marketing, and you always want to double that number.

Warner Bros., the new article states, disputes the $800 million, saying those estimates are "inflated," but offers no specific number of its own -- which isn't uncommon. These aren't conversations the studios are particularly keen to have with the press.

One outside analyst is quoted as saying that regardless of what Warner Bros. considers break-even, the movie would have to earn $1 billion globally to meet expectations and be considered a hit. That number is astronomical -- only 24 movies have done it, ever -- but for this kind of movie, it's more and more becoming "the norm" to ask for ten digits. The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3 are among the movies that have earned that much worldwide.

What are the odds of Batman V Superman earning a billion worldwide? Well, it's difficult to say. Man of Steel earned only $668 million (only!), but has made a ton of money in the home video market and, despite backlash from a vocal element of fandom, had an A CinemaScore from fans leaving the theater. Batman V Superman has a 99% want-to-see rating at Rotten Tomatoes right now, and early reviews are saying it's a better movie than Man of Steel -- plus, it has Batman. His last two films, as mentioned above, earned upwards of $1 billion each.

The film is projected to earn about $140 million at the domestic box office over its opening weekend, and of the 14 films to have done that, 9 of them eventually passed $1 billion. One of the movies that didn't was Spider-Man 3, and at that point only four movies had passed the $1 billion mark -- Titanic, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and Jurassic Park. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out before Spider-Man 3 and ultimately ended up with over $1 billion, but only due to a 2012 3D re-release that pushed it over the top.

So -- the smart money is on Batman V Superman doing somewhere between Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. This is just kind of rough thinking, but it's backed up by the fact that in recent years a great many sequels outdo their predecessors at the box office. The smart money also says Batman V Superman will make over $1 billion just on the odds based on its opening numbers...but those numbers don't tell the whole story.

One of the five films that earned over $140 million at its opening weekend and then failed to cross $1 billion globally is The Hunger Games, which ultimately earned $694 million. That movie opened on March 23 -- the same weekend as Batman V Superman -- and dominated the box office until May, when Avengers came out. That's roughly the same amount of time Batman V Superman will have to be the dominant force in the box office before Captain America: Civil War.

That may sound ominous -- if it tracked roughly on par with The Hunger Games, the movie would make less than $700 million globally! -- but it's also not an accurate depiction of what's likely to happen with Batman V Superman.

There are five superhero movies ever to cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office: The Dark Knight, Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Iron Man 3. Only one of those films -- The Dark Knight, the first superhero movie ever to do so -- did it without earning a larger share of its revenue overseas.

And while The Dark Knight Rises made more money internationally than domestically -- $636 million to $448 million -- and so did Man of Steel -- $377 million to $291 million -- The Hunger Games (you know, the movie that served as our cautionary model earlier?) earned 60% of its money in North America. Given a day-and-date release in China, it's virtually impossible to imagine Batman V Superman earning only $285 million internationally -- which is what The Hunger Games did -- so a similar box office outing to Hunger Games at the domestic box office, coupled with international performance like most big superhero movies do, would virtually guarantee the film $800 million-plus.

Man of Steel and every $1 billion-plus superhero movie since 2012 have made between 56% and 68% of their money at the international box office. That means if Batman V Superman were to get bad reviews, take the hit, and earn about 10% less than The Hunger Games domestically, it would still earn a bare minimum of $771 million if it earned 55% of its movie overseas.

So...is it a guarantee for the film to be "a success" at $1 billion? No, but there's a pretty decent chance. Is it a guarantee for the film to "earn its money back," assuming that's $800 million? No, but it's difficult to imagine a realistic scenario where it doesn't.

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And will any of this affect you at all? Only if you're heavily invested in Warner Bros.

Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.