Weekend Forecast: Can ‘Suicide Squad’ Break August Record?

SUICIDE SQUAD

The DC Cinematic Universe is likely going to live or die this weekend, based on the performance of the hotly anticipated Suicide Squad. After the terminal underperformance of Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice (which was expected to easily hit $1B+ and kickstart the DC universe) all eyes turned to Suicide Squad, the third installment in the DC Extended Universe. Many fans are thinking that the films eccentric premise and advertising will lead it to be a massive success, and there’s plenty of reasons why it could – or could not – end up breaking the August opening weekend record, currently held by Guardians of the Galaxy.

Speaking of Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s more than a few comparisons to be made between the two films. Firstly, they’re both ensemble teams of unlikely heroes banding together to stop some sort of villian, including marketing which heavily features humor and nostalgiac music. Additionally, both films are being released in the first weekend of August. That release date could really end up helping Suicide Squad, as outside of a few major key releases, the summer has been very slow in terms of PG-13 blockbusters, with only Captain America: Civil War able to crack the century mark in its opening weekend. Compare that to 2015, where there was Avengers: Age of UltronMinionsJurassic World, and Furious 7 (debatably a summer release but you get the idea). 2014’s slow summer ended up boosting Guardians of the Galaxy to much higher than expected results, and it’s clear that Warner Bros. is hoping for the same. Unfortunately, Guardians of the Galaxy had over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, while Suicide Squad currently sits at 29%. This will undoubtedly turn off many mainstream audiences.

So how high will the film open, realisitically? Well, Guardians of the Galaxy opened to around $101 million with inflation, which seems like a good comparison to Suicide Squad. While expectations have shot up to the $145M+ range, that’s most likely a case of Civil War syndrome, in which expectations for a hotly anticipated blockbuster shot up in the weeks before release, most of which was due to fan anticipation and not legitimate box office analysis. Another problem is the films tone and clearly not family friendly content; while Guardians was a fun, exciting sci-fi adventure for pretty much anyone, Suicide Squad has a darker tone, much more violence, the word “suicide” in the title (which will unquestionably turn off some parents) and the non-subtle sexualization of Harley Quinn, which hasn’t really been hidden in the marketing. All of these things are going to take away a key audience from Suicide Squad, as the potential R rated audience that Deadpool pulled in was pushed aside in favor of a PG-13. Whether or not that will work is yet to be seen.

Despite me meddling on for seven centuries about Suicide Squad, there are in fact other films opening this weekend. Kevin Spacey stars in the head scratching Nine Lives, a film about a father who gets turned into a cat via Christopher Walken, yet many have commented that the film has the production quality of a direct to DVD film from the early 2000’s, and doesn’t look like something that should be opening in over 2,000 theaters. There’s not exactly a ton of comparisons in terms of talking-cat-played-by-Kevin-Spacey market, but it looks like the film will open with around $5 million.

Bar for Success

Considering how much of the DC Universe is riding on this films success, Suicide Squad really needs to hit over $100 million this weekend to get a pass, while Nine Lives is fine at $10 million.

Weekend Predictions

  1. Suicide Squad – $112M
  2. Jason Bourne – $25M
  3. Bad Moms – $14M
  4. Star Trek Beyond – $11M
  5. The Secret Life of Pets – $9M

Nine Lives – $4M

Zero Issues – When is the Comic Book Bubble Going to Burst?

In 2016, the comic book crazy is only going to get crazier, with DC throwing their hat into the billion-dollar ring. The first entry in their attempt to steal Marvel’s crown is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is set to hit theaters next March. To say that there has been a lot of online hype surrounding this film is a similar understatement to saying the Titanic was a bit of a problem. Ben Affleck takes on the role of Batman, and is roughly the 30 or 40th person to do so, alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman. Of course, the only problem is the outcome is fairly obvious since the Justice League movie has already been announced. BvS  is one of ten, yes, ten DC movies set to hit theaters by the end of the decade. And while it will obviously be a massive hit, things really get interesting a few months down the line, with Suicide Squad being released that August. It seems hard to market a film with Suicide in the title, as it’s one of the words studios like to avoid. Similarly, Edge of Tomorrow was supposed to be called All You Need is Kill, the same title of the novel which it was based off of, but studios don’t like having words like that attatched to $200M productions, and for good reason. Many not familiar with the comics or cinematic universe are going to cringe at such an unappealing title, which means the marketing is going to have to do a phenomenal job overcoming that obstacle. There’s also some questioning of whether or not it will be rated R or PG-13. That’s a valid question. For example, Mad Max: Fury Road was rated R and took in over $350M worldwide. However, it seems unlikely that they would split the universe making half of their films R and half PG-13. While this may seem like a massive tangent, my point is that while superhero films can get more and more unusual and unorthodox, it’s only a matter of time before audiences get tired of trying to follow seventeen different storyline spread across 70,000 sequels released in the span of a month. Take Deadpool for example. It’s much harder to market that than pretty much any other Marvel superhero film, though again, films like Mad Max and Kingsman: The Secret Service proved that opening an R rated blockuster isn’t as hard as people thought. But if it fails, it will likely make it harder and harder for studios to put out big R rated films.

The best piece of anecdotal evidence I can give to this is when I was walking out of a screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a theater employee had to explain to an elderly couple what the “Infinity Gems” were, since they hadn’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy, and that pretty much sums up my point. The Marvel films alone are almost becoming too convuluted for people to just go see one out of the blue, which make up a bigger audience than you might think. Your average moviegoer doesn’t read comics and carefully follow lore, they’ll go see whatever new blockbuster is out because they want something to do, and that audience makes up a much larger percentage than comic book nerds. Time and time again, films like DreddKick-Ass, or Scott Pilgrim VS The World fail to find an audience is because they rely almost exclusively on the Comic-Con audience, who aren’t as big as many people like to think they are.

Essentially, I can boil it down to one good comparison. Remember Guitar Hero? Or Rock Band? Remember how for the mid to late 2000’s it was the most popular thing ever? Every new release of a Guitar Hero game was a huge deal, but then Rock Band entered the scene. In an effort to keep their brand alive, Guitar Hero quickly started pumping out more and more games, despite the fact that audience demand was not as high and the quality seemed to be plateauing. They eventually grew tired of it, but Rock Band stayed on for a few more years, yet eventually suffered the same fate. I’m thinking that history is likely going to repeat itself if studios don’t slow down the release schedule. Superhero films used to be a big deal, but now thanks to how many of them we get, there’s hardly any anticipation for them. Too much of a good thing.

So is DC going to instantly cause a chaotic rip in the box office? No. It will continue going strong, and may even come out on top for a few entries ahead of Marvel if they can offer interesting and unique takes on their intellectual propeties, but eventually audiences are just going to stop showing up. Not all at once, of course, but over a few years. By 2020, don’t be surprised when superhero films are averaging $30M opening weekends. It’s going to just be too watered down for audiences to get pumped up when there’s one being released every three months. Not only that, but keeping track of which films are in chronological order and what universe is not something general film goers are interested in.

I’m not saying that this is a fad that is going to die and Batman Vs Superman will flop, I’m just saying that every time a new superhero film gets added to the pile, it wears down audience interest more and more. The Marvel Universe is already so convoluted at this point that it’s beginning to be crushed by its own weight, and the interesting new take that DC offers may just be what pushes it over the edge, before ultimately, ironically, suffering the same fate.

Or I could be totally wrong.