4 reasons ‘Justice League’ has flopped at the box office

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“Justice League.”
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Warner Bros.

The release of Warner Bros.’s latest DC Comics title, “Justice League,” was more than a decade in the making and the payoff for the years of releasing standalone movies – from “Man of Steel” to “Wonder Woman.”

But the mixture of poor execution and bad luck has led to a major disappointment in the movie’s opening weekend.

“Justice League” opened over the weekend with a domestic box-office total of $96 million. That’s the lowest opening of any DC Comics Extended Universe release. The movie was projected to earn about $110 million in North America.

In today’s world, where superhero blockbusters keep the lights on at all the studios in Hollywood, an anticipated release like “Justice League” – powered by iconic characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg – not cracking $100 million could lead to dramatic changes in the franchise.

So what the heck happened? Here are four reasons “Justice League” turned out to be a box-office dud.


1. The movie just wasn’t good.

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Warner Bros.

Yes, it’s beating a dead horse, but it’s the obvious reason. Sometimes a movie’s marketing or release date can be blamed for a poor box office. “Justice League,” however, didn’t live up to the hype.

With a 39% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie didn’t leave a good taste in the mouths of critics, and moviegoers who didn’t like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” were given more reasons to stay clear of this one.


2. The Rotten Tomatoes score-reveal backfired for Warner Bros.

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Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes’ experiment of revealing the scores of select titles on its Facebook Watch show “See It/Skip It” isn’t gaining many fans in Hollywood.

Though the show had revealed the scores of a few other movies in the weeks leading up to “Justice League” opening – to zero controversy – it was that the site wouldn’t reveal the score of the DC movie until hours before preview screenings began on Thursday that became a story.

And that Warner Bros. is a stakeholder in Rotten Tomatoes added to a narrative that the studio was working behind the scenes to bury the score. (I think Rotten Tomatoes was just trying to build an audience for its show.)

If this story found its way into your news feed last week, you probably assumed the movie wasn’t good. It will be interesting going forward if studios will plead Rotten Tomatoes not to do the same score reveal with their upcoming anticipated titles.


3. “Thor: Ragnarok” stole some of the movie’s mojo.

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Marvel

Warner Bros. probably thought that releasing “Justice League” the week before Thanksgiving would be far enough out to not be hugely affected by the run of “Thor: Ragnarok” – but it turns out the Marvel movie still has legs.

Three weeks in, the movie is still playing on over 4,000 screens. That most likely took a chunk out of the gross for “Justice League,” as it earned $21.7 million over the weekend.

It’s a blow Warner Bros. likely was somewhat prepared for, but the movie that beat “Ragnarok” for second place was something that surprised almost everyone in Hollywood, including the studio.


4. No one saw “Wonder” coming.

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Lionsgate

The Julia Roberts family drama “Wonder” was projected to earn about $9 million this weekend. That’s a typical opening for a movie that doesn’t really grab teens, but Lionsgate worked overtime to build an audience.

The distributor pushed teachers of third through sixth grades to take field trips to see the movie – which rebukes bullying, as its main character is a child with a facial deformity who enters elementary school – leading to huge presale figures.

That, along with an A+ CinemaScore grade and an 84% Rotten Tomatoes score, resulted in a surprising second-place finish with $27 million.

That was a blow to the domestic box office of “Justice League.” This is the example that those who think the movie didn’t hit the $100 million mark because of bad luck can use.