UK Box Office

The winner: Batman v Superman

Reviews were embargoed until 10pm London time last Tuesday (22 March) – after official premieres of the film had already occurred in Mexico City, Los Angeles and New York – but Warners could not indefinitely postpone the day of reckoning for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The question was: would reviews, if largely negative, hamper the box-office?

The answer, so far, is not really. Critical adulation, had it occurred, may have pushed the numbers even higher, but nobody can fairly call the results disappointing. In the UK, the film opened with £14.62m over the three-day weekend, with Easter Monday pushing the four-day total to £17.96m.

For comparison, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel began in June 2013 with £11.2m. As for Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight kicked off in July 2008 with £11.19m including previews of £2.5m, and The Dark Knight Rises with £14.36m (and no previews). Comparing the three-day openings, Batman v Superman has debuted a tiny bit ahead of The Dark Knight Rises, but with the benefit of four years of ticket-price inflation.

For comparisons with the top Marvel titles, Avengers Assemble kicked off with £13.22m plus £2.55m in previews, while sequel Age of Ultron began with £14.42m plus £3.6m in previews. Again, ignoring previews, Batman v Superman has opened a tiny bit ahead of Age of Ultron, with the benefit this time of just one year’s ticket price inflation. In terms of pure box office, Warners and DC Comics can fairly claim bragging rights on the biggest ever opening weekend for a superhero movie at UK cinemas.

The genre usually sees pretty steep drops in subsequent weeks – Man of Steel fell 55% in its second session, for example. If the negative critical consensus on Batman v Superman (44/100 at MetaCritic and 28% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) has any impact at all, we can expect to see a relatively rapid burnout. Warners was keen to trumpet the fact that not every critic is down on the film, booking adverts communicating the Sun’s five-star endorsement (“It’s brilliant. Absolutely, positively brilliant.”)

The runner-up: Zootropolis

Opening just as the vast majority of UK schools broke up for the two-week Easter holiday, Disney Animation’s Zootropolis was nicely positioned to target the family audience. The animal animation debuted with £3.57m, with previews taking the tally to £5.31m. Add in a splendid £1.72m for Easter Monday and the total so far rises to £7.03m so far. The film should enjoy two weeks of further solid play before kids return to school on 11 April.

For comparison, Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 kicked off in January 2015 with £3.81m plus previews of £480,000. Before that, Frozen began in December 2013 with £4.7m, and no previews. Wreck-It Ralph started its run in February 2013 with £4.63m, also with no previews.

Zootropolis faced significant competition for the family audience in the shape of Kung Fu Panda 3, which managed £1.2m over the weekend period, and £1.72m including Easter Monday. And of course families with slightly older kids would have been pulled to the 12A-rated Batman v Superman. Disney will be hoping that positive word of mouth on its film will see it win the war: the animal adventure has an 8.4/10 IMDb user rating and a 78/100 MetaCritic score. Kung Fu Panda 3 has been on release for two weeks longer than Zootropolis, achieving £9.47m so far.

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