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David Poland

By David Poland

Keeping Superman's Returns In Perspective

The phrase, “It won’t be another King Kong” seems to be floating around these days regarding Superman Returns.
Putting my negative review of Superman Returns aside for a moment (is that possible?), let’s really look at this.
King Kong made $218,080,025 domestic and $331,136,871 internationally for a worldwide total of $549,216,896, making it #34 all time and the 22nd highest grosser of this millennium.
Why keep beating on King Kong? No one is stupid enough to make the “it’ll beat Titanic” comments we heard last December, which were a big part of why KK was so disappointing.
$600 million worldwide would be a big number for Supeman Returns

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54 Responses to “Keeping Superman's Returns In Perspective”

  1. Tofu says:

    The final $371 million tally for Batman Begins also makes a $550 million finish look, well, Super.
    SuperHero movies have a glass-ceiling overseas, with even Spider-Man only able to equal the domestic gross, instead of surpassing it as most movies do by twice over. Then again, when you have an abnormal $400 million domestic gross, making an equal to that overseas isn’t much a problem at all.

  2. Telemachos says:

    I think what you have here is ‘net geek fandom panting in anticipation and the casual audience being generally lukewarm or indifferent. I think there’s no question SR opens large over the first few days, and I think even the casual audience will go, assuming the reviews remain solidly positive. But outside of the ‘net, I don’t hear or see anybody who’s dying to see it, let alone see it repeatedly.
    This has nothing to do with the film’s quality — it could be wonderful. But I think the ‘net folks are over-estimating how much the rest of society cares about another Superman film, whether it’s a remake or a sequel or something in between.
    Best case scenario, I see WB breaking even before home video — somewhere between $225-250 domestic, something close to that (but slightly less) internationally.
    (Of course, no doubt someone wrote exactly this before LOTR came out… heh)

  3. Blackcloud says:

    One person I know is very excited about Pirates (as are many of my friends). Asked about SR, he replied that he had no interest in seeing it, that it was too soon, it besmirched Reeve’s memory, those movies were perfect (must mean only I and II), etc. The guy is something of a blowhard, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in his comments. But it is one view.

  4. RDP says:

    Too soon? Man, it’s been almost twenty years since the last Superman movie and that one was essentially a gasping grab for cash that rightly flopped pretty miserably.
    I wonder if there were people who thought the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie was too soon after the George Reeves’ “Adventures of Superman” series went off the air.

  5. Jeremy Smith says:

    Even my friends who are opposed to the idea of SUPERMAN RETURNS are dead-set on seeing it next week.
    This movie is going to be a monster. I don’t know if it’ll have legs, but that opening week will be record breaking.

  6. martin says:

    agreed, it will sprint to 200, then jog and finally gasp to 300. $700 worldwide seems about right. That is unless the word of mouth contradicts the critical concensus.

  7. Blackcloud says:

    To clarify: too soon after Christopher Reeve’s death.

  8. jeffmcm says:

    Fighting for more funding for stem-cell research is a better way to pay tribute to Reeve’s passing than complaining about a movie being made with a different actor. I think that’s kind of silly.

  9. Blackcloud says:

    So do I. As I pointed out, the person who made the comment is someone whose opinions I don’t take very seriously. (No one could take them as seriously as he does.) I thought what he said was absurd and outlandish, but didn’t call him on it since it didn’t seem worth the effort. He’s one of those people who likes the taste of his own feet. Who am I to criticize his choices?

  10. jeffmcm says:

    Indeed, in fact you should take photos of him doing that last thing with his feet so we can all enjoy the visual.

  11. kojled says:

    i’m confused. if ‘$600 million worldwide would be a big number for Supeman Returns

  12. Blackcloud says:

    Jeff, lol.

  13. David Poland says:

    AG –
    I’ve never written anything remotely like DVC being a financial failure.
    Domestically, it is a disappointment. But it was more than made up for overseas, in the vein of The Last Samurai or Troy. (Over 70% of the gross is foreign.)
    Please feel free to point out where I actually said what you are claiming. I think it was probably more nuanced than you remember.
    There are layers to all this, which is why all the tracking talk lately is crazy. Tracking analysis is often wrong and those of us who have actually watched tracking for years don’t report it because it is so often wrong. For that matter, actual matinee numbers on Friday can be very misleading.
    A $70 million opening getting to $215 total domestic is a disappointment. So is X3, which won’t get to 2.5 times opening. But neither is a failure.
    X3 will gross about $400 million worldwide, returning about $210 million to the studio. Because there are no gross players, with DVD and other ancillaries, it will make some money

  14. kojled says:

    my apologies. i was confusing you with another writer’s blog (which there is no reason to name). i withdraw the comment.

  15. Lurconis says:

    I think there is a lot of over estimation about what Superman will do internationally. I could be wrong about this, but I have barely heard the film mentioned by people over here (I live in London) as soemthing they are looking forward to. X3, DaVinci Code and especially Pirates of the Carribbean all seem to have far more people interested in them at the moment.
    I think a big part of the problem, which I have not seen acknowledged anywhere, is that Superman is the supreme AMERICAN hero. Whatever his comic book complexities, he is seen as the embodiment of Americana, which is very unfashionable in this part of the world now. All it would take would be one airing of “Trusth, Justice and the American way” and a lot of people would get offended or mock it mercilessly. I am not saying this is right, but there will certainly be resistence to this. I don’t believe this will mean it will flop overseas, but I think 200 to 250 million is where it will top out.

  16. Arrow77 says:

    The buzz is good. The tricky part isn’t about whether people are interested in it or not, it’s about whether there are enough of them to meet the ridiculously high expectations. Geeks seems to be loving the film, so they’ll make their part and see the film more than once. And King Kong had the problem of being released around Christmas while being anything but a Christmas film. Superman will make more money and fight PotC2 for the summer’s biggest earner but it could still start talk about a ‘slump’.

  17. Martin S says:

    Dave – I reference Kong because anything I’ve heard from the DC/WB camp is “Spider-Man numbers”. Horn and co. may be playing it down,(due to what happened to Snider), but a domestic break-even is expected. I don’t know if it will take Spidey’s 3-day total, but it should nab some of the weekday records.
    It’s going to play big with families, and the week-long opening will make sure of that, but Spidey had monster repeat viewings from the kids which I don’t see with Supes. This could break a record for biggest drop ever because it’s so front-loaded and with POTC2 opening right on its ass.
    Interesting info about the tracking. I wonder why WB doesn’t already have Routh out blanketing my TV.
    Oh – is it just me or does Knowles’ review read like a rebuttal?

  18. martin says:

    you honestly think Routh working the talshow circuit is going to affect business one slight bit?
    i’m somewhat encouraged by early reviews, but I still think Bay was the best choice for this fillm, he would have made the ultimate superman film. And while transformers might be kinda fun or cool, it’s kind of an embarassing franchise for him to be doing at this point in his career.

  19. Marty says:

    The latest tracking from Reel Source and MTC have SR making 118 million in its first 5 days, pretty damn good if you asked me.

  20. Wrecktum says:

    What I find interesting is that the online fansite anticipation for Superman is rabid while the real-world interest (at least in my neck of the woods) is more tempered.
    Contrast that to the online fansite anticipation for Pirates 2, which is strong but nothing special, versus real-world interest, which is rabid.

  21. Eddie says:

    If Bay was directing, would he have done that J.J. Abrams script that AICN destroyed? Or was someone else on board at that point?
    Also, did anyone ever get a look at the script Tim Burton was going to direct? Was that any good? Would the movie have been in the darker Batman vein?

  22. jeffmcm says:

    I would think that Michael Bay and his career could use some major embarrassment. If he could have been hired to direct second-unit on Superman, and had no influence on story or characters, that might have been something.
    Marty’s post up there is the first time, after 11 years on the internet, that I have ever seen an actual tracking figure.

  23. Telemachos says:

    If that tracking figure ends up being right, that would put SR’s opening as the #11 best 5-day starter. However, WB is giving themselves a 6 day “weekend”, not a 5-day one, so no doubt that will help pad the numbers to help SR get closer to the top of the list.

  24. THX5334 says:

    Burton’s ’89 Batman is not holding up well for me at all compared to Batman Begins.
    I still enjoy Nicholson, but some of the plotting is ludicrous. And the gags don’t hold up. And it’s maddening how it’s a Batman film and it seems to focus on everything other than Batman.
    The one thing I will give Burton’s Batman over Nolan’s:
    There are a couple really nice wide full frame shots of Batman in action. You can see the guy in the full suit ducking kicks and trading moves.
    Nolan went for the personally despised, confusing to follow, handheld, quick cut, Borne Supremacy close-up style action cutting and cinematography.
    My feeling is they had problems with their own suit and had to shoot around it. Which is lame.

  25. jeffmcm says:

    Batman Returns holds up better as more of a Burton movie. Batman ’89 feels like it was pulled in about five different directions in the screenplay and shooting stage and is pretty uneven. And it only took us 16 years to realize it.

  26. Me says:

    Just watch the Batman Mask of the Phantasm movie. I think it is probably the most cohesive and enjoyable of the bunch.

  27. Eddie says:

    I like Mask of the Phantasm, if only because of the line “So-and-So, your angel of death awaits!”
    I kinda want that as a ring tone.
    Speaking of which, have you guys heard the David Lynch ringtones over at his site?
    Odd, odd fellow, that Lynch.

  28. Geoff says:

    You know, it really bugs me how so many people are lumping in Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy) and Chris NOlan (Batman Begins) with the likes of Michael Bay, when it comes to too many cuts in their action scenes.
    In both Bourne’s and Batman’s cases, the camera work truly served a purpose, taking you into the action. I point to that car chase in Moscow at the end of Supremacy as a supreme example of “you are there” action. Greengrass really took into the perspective of some one driving a car, fast, catching little things in the corner of their eye zooming at every corner.
    With regards to Begins, Nolan is trying to demonstrate how Batman is instilling fear with the criminals, with that shooting style. It’s only really used in a coupe of scenes to illustrate the point that he is a boogeyman for crooks. But if you watch the first Batmobile chase, he pulls the camera back at all the right points and you truly get a sense of geography, time, and place. Where the car is, where it is going, where the cops are, what his motivation is, etc. It’s a damn exciting scene.
    Tight camera work CAN serve a purpose in movies like this. It’s a lot different when Bay is shooting an asteroid so closely in Armageddon that it looks like a flying eggplant or when he actually takes you into the POV of the bomb that breached the Arizona in Pearl Harbor, which let’s all admit it, is borderline tasteless.

  29. jeffmcm says:

    Replace ‘borderline’ with ‘blatantly’.

  30. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Dave can you explain this comment from you, “Domestically, it is a disappointment. ” in regards to DVC. When you originally pegged the film at $125 dom and it does $210 dom – doesn’t logic dictate that coming from your mouth the words should have been “DVC is a success domestically” ? You have a real knack at altering reality to fit your arguments time and time again. No wonder some people around here get nutty on your ass.

  31. jeffmcm says:

    DP said:
    “A $70 million opening getting to $215 total domestic is a disappointment. So is X3, which won’t get to 2.5 times opening. But neither is a failure.”
    So within the context of huge opening, huge dropoff, DP has a point. But within the simpler context of overall gross, he doesn’t.

  32. Tofu says:

    I’m on the fence about the Arizona Bomb shot, because my gut tells me Bay included it to look cool, but at the same time it really was the biggest action of the day.

  33. jeffmcm says:

    If you mean biggest military action of the attack, then perhaps the shot should have signified ‘horror’ instead of ‘cool’, which is what it wants to be. A bomb going towards a target is traditionally meant to be rousing/exciting, as in Star Wars, Hunt for Red October, etc. Bay’s use of the shot is offensive.

  34. David Poland says:

    JBD – Much as my ego would wish to think it was so, my personal projections do not always match the expectations of the industry.
    For instance, the Nacho Libre opening wasn’t at all surprising to me. But it was to others.
    Likewise, the number on Da Vinci was quite different after it smashed my personal expectations on opening weekend. The same is true of An Inconvenient Truth and A Prairie Home Companion, both of which have opened stronger than I expected. And so, my expectations are adjusted.
    Da Vinci opening at $77 million in 3 off-holiday weekend days, followed by Memorial Day weekend, means that less than triple that opening is a disappointment based on the opening. Examples of other movies in that slot seem unfair because Shrek or Star Wars or even Matrix Reloaded are not movies aiming at adults first. Still, the argument would normally be that after that huge opening, adults would be showing up for longer than with the kid-oriented movies.
    The reality of me and the fact that I am updating and writing so often is that it is probably safer to pay attention to the context of a particular comment and not to project something from some other piece in a different context onto it. I am sympathetic to the confusion factor, but if I tried to clean up the connections to months old stuff every time I write, I would soon go insane. And one thing is for sure

  35. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    thanks for the clarification. I’ll take that NACHO ref on the chin. It was a surprise to me but obviously not to some at Paramount. Personally to me multipliers don’t figure when the gross is the ultimate bottomline.

  36. jeffmcm says:

    Multipliers are important in telling how much of a films gross was based on hype and marketing budgets, and how much was based on people actually liking the movie. The ratio of the former to the latter seems to be constantly growing.

  37. Aladdin Sane says:

    Pearl Harbor was never interesting….even the action lacked excitement. Those characters sucked. The story sucked and I was bored, bored, bored.
    That being said, I do like The Island and the Rock…even Bad Boys with all of their tasteless excess are more enjoyable than Pearl Harbor.
    But ya, Bay is never gonna be a Nolan or Greengrass. Imagine a Michael Bay United 93? Oh man, that would have been gold. Solid gold.

  38. Telemachos says:

    One of my director friends says Bay is “the world’s best second-unit director” — which I think is a reasonable description. He captures/generates a lot of sensational-looking action visuals, but there’s no emotion behind any of it.

  39. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Jeffmcm – I did say personally. My $$$ comes from the bottomline. There are always factors that cannot be equated into films openings..factors that make multipliers not exactly redundant but hardly science fact. Multipliers are like the results from people meters for advertisers; “the lie they need to believe”. With the zillions of combinations from films opening against each other to sports to holidays and other unseen contributing factors – they’re as important for analysis as any other two bit equinine rundown is from some geezer at the track.

  40. David Poland says:

    Multiples can mean different things and change annually, but while I agree that the final numbers are all that really matter, expectations are first based on gut, then tracking, then the opening Friday, then the opening weekend, then the weekdays, then the second weekend and then get fairly solid.
    I think it is as wacky that $210 million for DVC is a disappointment as $550 million worldwide is for King Kong. But after that opening, expectations rose. And with Memorial Day Weekend following

  41. jeffmcm says:


  42. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Telemachos – that is incorrect. David Ellis is the worlds best 2nd-unit director in the world.

  43. Telemachos says:

    Well, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment to begin with, so…. 😉

  44. Martin S says:

    martin – “you honestly think Routh working the talshow circuit is going to affect business one slight bit”?
    It actually started today, funny enough. My point was that you *have* to get the dude out there on shows like TRL, if you have any chance of dragging teen girls into the theater.
    Eddie – “If Bay was directing, would he have done that J.J. Abrams script that AICN destroyed? Or was someone else on board at that point?”
    That was Bay and Ratner. And McG. Everyone but Singer. Singer’s big sell was not doing the death/reborn storyline.
    Eddie – “Also, did anyone ever get a look at the script Tim Burton was going to direct? Was that any good? Would the movie have been in the darker Batman vein”?
    Nonono. Jim Carrey was Brainiac. Batman ’89 would have been a darker film. I can’t remember who he was talking to for Luthor, but it was just as absurd. Total star-fu*ked casting.

  45. Telemachos says:
    For all the ugly glory of the project that eventually became SR.

  46. JBM... says:

    From what I’ve heard and read, he wanted Tim Allen for Brainiac, Chris Rock for Jimmy Olsen, Spacey for Luthor and Cameron Diaz for Lois Lane. That almost makes Bosworth’s casting look good.

  47. jeffmcm says:

    Re: the Wikipedia article. Jesus, what a series of ridiculous decisions. It really reminds you that it’s insanely difficult to make any movie in Hollywood, even a bad one.

  48. palmtree says:

    Wow…the story of how Superman got made would make an amazing movie.

  49. Eddie says:

    Yeah, they can get Brett Ratner to play Bryan Singer.
    You know, again.

  50. palmtree says:

    I saw let Robert Altman direct it with everyone playing themselves.

  51. jeffmcm says:

    So I’m watching Brandon Routh on Letterman right now, he looks surprisingly Reeve-esque. Also, very tall. Why have I gotten the impression that he was of average height and slim build?

  52. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    BTW, for my money, Batman Returns is the best Batman movie around.
    Routh does look like Reeve. Whoever said that Superman Returns was too soon after Reeve’s death…? Did they not know that the movie was being made before his death?
    …I really have nothing of note to say other than I’m back from my computer destruction and I now come equipped with Broadband so I can actually watch any clips people post which I couldn’t do before.

  53. Aladdin Sane says:

    Come on Kamikaze, everyone knows Batman Returns is a Tim Burton film that just happens to feature characters from the Batman comics 😉 Up until BB, it was my favourite Batman film…although, for a pure Batman story, the animated, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the best story…I’d now rank ’em as such:
    Batman Begins
    Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm
    Batman Returns
    Batman Forever
    Batman & Robin

  54. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    (I haven’t seen Phantasm)
    But, in my mind, I don’t have a problem with Burton turning Batman into his own magical fantasy land movie. I never once read the comics (to be honest, I’ve never read a comic in my life although i do appreciate them something chronic, i just never had the money for them) and so I didn’t really know what I was meant to get from a Batman movie. And what I got in Batman Returns was something astonishing. It’s ravishing to look at, Michelle Pfeiffer is PHENOMENAL and just everything about it makes me giddy.
    Having said that, Batman Begins is a very great second place. Then Forever, Batman and the first 40 minutes of Batman & Robin (I turned it off).

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon