Despite some overestimations, God appears to still not be dead, Batman AND Superman took a punch to the face themselves, and the animals continue to rule the zoo that is the box office.

That's right friends, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice took quite a bit of a decline at the box office over the weekend, dropping a whopping 69.1% from last weekend. There was no question in my mind that it was going to take a 50% blow to ticket sales for sure, and while I was estimating anywhere between 55-70%, I didn't expect it to come so close to the high end of that range. But the good news is it's still breaking records! Well... maybe not the records it wants to be breaking. On Saturday Scott Mendelson from Forbes reported that Dawn of Justice's Friday-to-Friday sales plunged 81%, a record for the largest drop a major motion-picture comic book adaptation has ever suffered. In fairness though, Mendelson includes the $27.7 million Dawn of Justice brought in on it's Thursday Previews just before its opening weekend. If you take that away from its $81.5 million "opening day" total of last weekend, you still have a solid 71.5% drop from Friday-to-Friday.

It is also the 4th largest second weekend drop for a film grossing over 100 million it's opening weekend, beaten only by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and a couple of the Twilight films. But all numbers aside, Dawn of Justice is still the #1 movie in the country, and it just officially surpassed the $680 million dollar mark for worldwide revenue. Yes, this weekend drop was steep, yes the critics are bashing it HARD, and yes the chances of the film passing the $1 billion elite mark may be a bit too far out of reach now, but it's now doing better than Man of Steel, Thor: The Dark World, or Iron Man 1 and 2 did in their final global returns. Clearly, the film is holding it's own. What is certain for this film is that it is not living up to the excitement, and from the conversations I've had with multiple friends and fans of the series, it seems like everyone is simply tired of talking about this film already. No one wants to go to battle for the film; no one wants to fully embrace it either. The feeling is almost apathetic in some regards now - it's an indifference of sorts where the audience watched it one time, and they thought, "alright then." Which can be even more detrimental in the grand scheme of box office success.

Mendelson pointed out a very important distinction between what we can read from the 1st vs 2nd weekend success of a film: the success of a film opening weekend is largely in part due to impressive marketing, promoting, and pre-release hype, where the success of that same film in it's 2nd weekend run is usually more reflective of how well the audience responded to the story itself, and if that story was any good. If I am being honest, from a film critic standpoint, the film and story were messy. It was hard to be emotionally invested in any of the characters with the pace to which the plot moved, and in the end I felt like I predicted most of the major plot points before they happened. That's not to say I still didn't enjoy the film however. Did I like it as much as Man of Steel? No. Did I like it a whole lot better than Avengers: Age of Ultron? HELL YES. But almost anything is better than Ultron. If anything I am in that same "meh" camp when it comes to Dawn of Justice. I watched it one evening. I was entertained. I'll write about it in a blog. Then that's it. I might not give this one much more thought. Which seems to be a very bad response to leave your audience with as you start to build up a franchise. But the success of this film isn't going to come from people such as myself, a critic, it will and very much is coming from fans themselves.

With a Cinemascore still holding at a "B", juxtaposed to a Rotten tomatoes rating of 29%, and a good amount of superhero fans still backing the film, this might be a moment where a path in the woods diverges and goes two separate directions. In some ways, the success to which Dawn of Justice has had underscores that studios now have the ability to possibly throw conventional storytelling to the wind when they are working with an inherent or pre-established following. Afterall, when the following for a film is as developed as that of the one for DC comics, the audience doesn't look towards the opinions of film experts. They aren't concerned with what we thought of the story or plot. They are only interested with how the film portrayed the comic itself. So this raises the questions: At what point do inherited fan bases stop listening the the critics altogether? Subsequently, how far will Studios be able to push that boundary of well developed storytelling? Leading finally to; at what point do these inherent fan bases start to blindly follow wherever the studio might take them?

But those questions I'll let time itself answer, because there was a lot more than just some bat and alien drama at the box office this weekend - after all, God was on trial. Falling short the success of it's predecessor by about $1.2 million, God's Not Dead 2 walked away from it's opening weekend with only $7.6 million in ticket sales, despite opening to some 1,600+ more theatres than the original. But, despite what everyone might want to instantly assume about this movie - no, it was anything but a flop. Yes, it is quite clear it will not have the same success as the original God's Not Dead, but with a production budget of only $5 million (and oh LORDE does it show - sorry, it had to be said), this film made back its budget by 150% opening weekend. No, the profit margin isn't as high as last time, but we can all rest assured Pure Flix is going to milk this for everything they have and we can probably expect to see more of these in the future. If the it holds up as well as the first God's Not Dead did (which with audience rating like this it is a high likelihood) the film will only see about a 5-8% drop between now and next weekend. At most we're talking just under $7 million again, putting it at about $9 million in profit alone, which could easily squeeze out another one or two of this series.... But I ask you, WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT THAT?

Also doing decent this weekend was My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 which, despite taking a 37.2% decline, still brought in $11.2 million in box office revenue making it the #3 movie this past weekend. The official total now for this 2002 follow up is $36.5 million, an amount which took the original 100 days to climb to.

And finally, the one that surprised me in the best of ways this past weekend: ZOOTOPIA! The Disney Animation Studios hit is going stronger than I thought it would, this being it's 5th weekend in theatres. With a domestic weekend gross of $19.3 million, Zootopia took spot number #2 and only took an overall 19.6% change from last week - nearly 10-20% better than I had originally projected it to be doing. Once again, this film is holding up better than films such as Big Hero 6, Kung Fu Panda, and even Inside Out! With a domestic cume of $275 million, the film is well on it's way to becoming only one of 10 animated films to gross over $300 million at the US box office. International Zootopia also generated another $30 million bringing its global revenue amount to $786.9 million. 

Moving into next weekend I'm predicting about a 25-35% drop for Zootopia, but I also wouldn't be surprised if it did slightly better than that given that the new releases for next weekend are largely for an older demographic and Zootopia won't be going into head-to-head competition with any newcomer. Optimistically, even if it does drop 25% (which would be quite impressive) it'll still be looking at bringing in another $15 million from domestic box offices. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if Dawn of Justice falls another 40-55%, which might land it at between $25-$30 million domestic. If both of those predictions hold its going to be a close race for the top spot next weekend with Universal's The Boss releasing. I'm predicting this new Melissa McCarthy film will crack $30 million, which should make it the #1 movie in the country, but I might be overestimating the success of this one because of the overwhelming success that was Spy. The real film I am interested to see where it lands is STX Entertainment's Hardcore Henry. This experimental and revolutionary action thriller is sitting at 77% on Rotten Tomatoes (58% on Metacritic) and has received countless praises from festivals world over. I'm guessing it will bring in between $8-$13 million next weekend. Some have it coming in at only $7 million, which might put it close to the success of God's Not Dead 2. Which is truly telling.

-Matthew Miller

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