Jun 28 2011

Good news and bad news for Green Lantern fans

Published by at 12:29 am under DC Comics,Superhero Movies

The good news is that Warner Bros. is planning a GL sequel.  The bad news is that the preliminary box-office returns look rough enough (so far) that I do not think the sequel will survive.


2-Week U.S. Gross as a Percentage of Total Budget. (Obviously, international sales are just as important, but I had a really hard time finding reliable international data.  Let me know if you know where I can look).

U.S. Gross (First 2 Weeks) Production & Advertising Budget 2-Week U.S. $ as % of Budget
Spiderman $240 m $189 m 127%
X-Men $110 m $98 m 112%
Fantastic Four $110 m $122 m 90%
Iron Man $191 m $249 m 77%
Batman Begins $130 m $194 m 67%
Hulk $109 m $172 m 63%
Thor $129 m $225 m?* 57%
Ghost Rider $83 m $150 m 55%
Superman Returns $147 m $273 m 54%
Punisher $26 m $53 m?* 49%
Green Lantern $95 m $300 m 32%
Catwoman $33 m $135 m 24%

*-I had trouble finding a reliable estimate for the marketing budgets for Punisher and Thor.  The other statistics came from  The Numbers, Box Office Mojo, Reuters or the New York Times.


Week 2 Declines for First Superhero Movies–When movies drop off steeply from week 1 to week 2, it usually means the movie is getting bad word-of-mouth or ran out of fans relatively quickly.

  • Spiderman: -38%
  • Batman Begins: –43%
  • Thor: –47%
  • Iron-Man: –48%
  • The Punisher: –55%* (rebooted)
  • Ghost Rider: -56% (sequel scheduled for 2012)
  • X-Men: -57%
  • Fantastic Four: –59%
  • Superman Returns:59% (will be rebooted in 2012)
  • Catwoman:62%* (no sequel)
  • Green Lantern: -66%
  • Hulk (2003): –70%* (rebooted)

*I bolded the movies that resulted in a reboot or a series cancellation.


Week 2 Declines for Superhero Movies This Year

  • Thor: –47%
  • X-Men: First Class: -56%
  • Green Lantern: -66%


Observations and Predictions

  • All of the massively successful multifilm series (Spiderman, Batman, Iron-Man and X-Men) were respectively launched by movies that lost only 38%, 43%, 48% and 57% from the first week to the second.  That’s an average loss of 46%.  I think it bodes poorly for future Green Lantern films that this one fared substantially worse (-67%).

  • My fearless prediction is that Warner Brothers won’t release another Green Lantern movie this decade.  Right now, Man of Steel is scheduled for a 2012 release, around 6 years after Superman Returns came out.  There are several reasons to think that Warner Brothers will probably be even more skittish about Green Lantern than it has been about Superman.
    1. So far, Green Lantern is doing worse at the box office than Superman Returns did.  In its first 2 weeks in the U.S., Superman Returns’ gross was roughly 54% of its total budget.  Green Lantern’s gross was only 32%.  Of the 13 launch films I looked at, only Catwoman did worse.  WB reportedly spent around $300 million to produce and market Green Lantern.  Breaking even looks like the best-case scenario at this point.
    2. Warner Brothers thought that Superman Returns underperformed by at least $100 million at the box office. SR earned $390 million at the box office against a $270 million production budget and $40 million of advertising. After all the charges (like taxes and the theatres’ cut of ticket sales) and additional revenues like DVD sales ($80 million) were factored in, it probably wasn’t a substantial profit.  Green Lantern is on pace to do substantially worse.
    3. Although Superman Returns did not do so well, the Superman franchise had several blockbusters to its name in the 1970s and 80s.  Green Lantern does not have that level of demonstrated market appeal or name recognition.



  • Box-office sales and the week-on-week decrease aren’t the only factors determining which movies get sequels, which get rebooted and which get canned.  Otherwise, we’d be up to The Incredibles 3 by now.   (Its box-office gross shrank only 29% from week 1 to week 2 and it ended up grossing $630 million against a production budget of $92 million).  Likewise, a series might get rebooted because the lead actor(s), director and/or lead screenwriter just weren’t interested.
  • It’s possible for a movie to lose lots of viewers early but still become a blockbuster.  For example, Dark Knight lost a fairly high 53% from week 1 to week 2, but it was starting from a high base.  It’s obviously too soon to say whether Green Lantern will definitely be a box-office bust, but the evidence available so far is not encouraging.
  • I’m only looking at the launch titles.  Sequels tended to lose a larger proportion of their audience from week 1 to week 2.  Also, I only included movies from 2000 and later, but I did not notice major differences between modern superhero movies and older ones here.


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