The big question mark in November’s box office is what is going to happen with Justice League. We’ve already seen the numbers Thor: Ragnarok put up, and now the question is, how much more can one month support? The story of 2017 at the box office—and previous years, honestly, it’s just been better masked by bigger blockbusters—is one of declining and pickier audiences. You used to only need two weeks to reset the board for the next smash hit because people went to the movies more frequently, but now, it’s become standard for one movie to dominate a whole month. Buoyed by strong word of mouth, Thor: Ragnarok will be that movie for November. So the question is: how much is left over for Justice League?
The press tour has started (see below), though Thor’s fanfare has eaten up most of the spotlight, and the film opens in North America on November 17. The projection right now is for $110-120 million, which is not a bad number, but it must be noted that Justice League is projected to open at least $46 million less than Batman v Superman. That was also a non-summer release, so you can’t claim “no school” as the difference—it’s down to fatigue with a bad product and Wonder Woman is the main reason the projection isn’t lower.
But by week three Thor should be peaking and the table relatively clear for a new tent pole, I just have such a hard time seeing audiences in 2017 supporting two monsters two weeks apart. The DC faithful will turn out for sure—Thursday night ought to come in with big numbers—and there is a curiosity factor as well. Wonder Woman will get a few extra asses in seats, coming off her movie earlier this year, too. I’m not saying Justice League will bomb—although there is a bold reader betting on this—I just wonder how much the audience will really support it.
For casual viewers, there is no Marvel and DC, there are just “superhero movies”. And while superhero fatigue isn’t real—five of the top ten movies of the year are superhero movies, every one released so far—we have never tested two superhero movies so close together. Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War were seven weeks apart (though Civil War almost certainly cut off BvS’s run). Earlier this year, Logan and The LEGO Batman Movie opened less than 4 weeks apart, but their mutual appeal was lessened by the family element—R-rated Logan wasn’t going to pull tots from LEGO Batman. Justice League and Thor are appealing to the exact same audience, based on the old thinking that people will go see two movies in the same month. Will they, though?