‘Suicide Squad’ Opens at No. 1 Film as Fans Ignore Criticsby
Warner Bros. movie debuts with record for August weekend
Comic book superheros generate $135.1 million to top rivals
“Suicide Squad,” the latest feature from Warner Bros.’ DC Comics, opened as the No. 1 film in North American theaters, breaking records for August despite a mauling by critics.
The new superhero movie starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie collected an estimated $133.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, ComScore Inc. said Monday in an e-mailed statement. That topped the $94.3 million record for an August weekend set in 2014 by Walt Disney Co.’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The only other new picture was “Nine Lives,” via EuropaCorp which placed sixth with $6.25 million.
The film is an important release for Time Warner Inc.’s film division, which is trying to develop an expanded universe of DC Comics heroes for the big screen, like Disney’s successful efforts with Marvel. The solid debut for “Suicide Squad” will cheer Warner Bros.’ executives who also ran into a poor critical reception for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the first movie in a four-year roll out plan for DC characters.
“It’s an extraordinary weekend when you look at the fact that the domestic box office has never had a $200 million weekend in August,” said Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. “‘Suicide Squad’ drove this past weekend to a $229 million record weekend for the industry.”
Since the March release of “Batman v Superman,” which had a strong debut but saw box sales slow after critics panned the movie, Warner Bros. has appointed executives specifically to focus on the DC films slate. The studio has also given more input to producers such as Ben Affleck, who was praised for his portrayal of Batman and will direct a standalone Batman movie.
The DC films are one of three key franchises for Warner Bros. going into the next decade, along with movies from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and pictures based on the Lego toys. The studio has scheduled nine more DC films through 2020, including the 2017 release “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot, who won praise for her portrayal of the female superhero in “Batman v Superman.”
“Suicide Squad” cost $175 million to make, according to researcher Box Office Mojo, and tens of millions more to market. Weekend forecasts for the film ranged from a low of $126.7 million at Hollywood Stock Exchange to $145 million at Box Office Mojo, another researcher. The studio was projecting a more conservative $100 million to $125 million.
Analyst Doug Stone, of Box Office Analyst, said “Suicide Squad” could take in $390 million through its full run in domestic theaters. If it follows the path of other superhero films, it will do at least that much internationally. Foreign markets accounted for 62 percent of sales for “Batman v Superman,” which went on to gross $872.6 million globally, according to Box Office Mojo.
Stone, who Friday had lowered his estimate on the opening weekend to $135 million, said he doesn’t expect sales of “Suicide Squad” to fall as rapidly as those for “Batman v Superman. ”
“It will be very profitable,” he said.
Warner Bros. said the film also was No. 1 internationally, generating $133.3 million in sales at 17,630 screens. The opening weekend U.S. gross for ‘Suicide Squad’ also pushed the studio to more than $1 billion in total domestic box-office sales for 2016, marking the 16th year in a row Warner Bros. has topped that figure, the studio said in a statement.
“Suicide Squad” is set after the death of Superman. It follows a government-sanctioned group of super-villains who are offered clemency in exchange for protecting the U.S. against meta-humans.
Smith plays Deadshot while Robbie is featured as Harley Quinn, the love interest of the Joker, played by Jared Leto. The rest of the characters, Diablo, Boomerang, Killer Croc and Monster T, are among the less well-known members of the DC universe brought to the big screen in this feature, as Disney did with “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Written and directed by David Ayer, “Suicide Squad” garnered 26 percent positive reviews as of Friday at RottenTomatoes.com, about the same as “Batman v Superman.”
Nevertheless, “Suicide Squad is a small step forward. But it could have been a giant leap,” wrote Chris Nashawaty in a review for Entertainment Weekly.