By now, it's all that anyone is talking about when it comes to superhero movies and that's the seemingly inevitable box office battle between Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman and Marvel Studios' Captain America 3 on May 6, 2016.
Looking at it from a practical standpoint, I'm here to tell you why this match-up not only won't happen but it can NEVER happen, and once Marvel and Warner Bros. stop playing this odd game of chicken, wiser heads will prevail and they'll figure out what anyone who thinks about it even for a second already knows – that it's a bad idea.
After all, we're talking about two movies that have generally been well-received by comic book fans. Sure, many had problems with some of the decisions made in Man of Steel by Zack Snyder and company, but I know just as many people who loved the movie, making it their favorite movie of last summer. Captain America: The Winter Soldier just opened huge and is getting rave reviews from critics and moviegoers alike, so clearly the next movie is going to be even bigger. Comparisons are already being made between the two movies as well.
We won't get into the whole history of the latest "Marvel vs. DC" release date throw down, although for a second there, I actually believed that Marvel and DC might revive the Amalgam Universe after an April Fools' Day joke by Brian Bendis. Certainly, all the talk about a potential May 2016 match-up between the two companies could be seen as an evil marketing promotion for the companies' first crossover in a decade. Thankfully, it's not happening, because bringing back Amalgam is as bad an idea as opening two superhero movies on the same weekend.
Without getting into my current peeve that few superhero movies are "done in one" standalone movies, ending on cliffhangers that force moviegoers to wait years for the continuation (too late!), there's already so much interest in both these movies they both can easily open to over $100 million on ANY weekend… unless they choose to open against each other.
One imagines the most immediate issue is whether the market can handle two big event movies released on the same weekend, let alone theaters having the available screens necessary to allow both movies to make an impact. (That's even taking into consideration the number of new theaters that will be built over the next two years.)
Sure, we've seen some big weekends with two movies opening over $50 million—Wanted vs. Pixar's WALL•E in the summer of 2008 for one–and last summer, Pixar's Monsters University opened against Brad Pitt in World War Z and beat it with $82.4 million to the latter's $66.4 million, and that was with Man of Steel bringing in $40 million in its second weekend. So that's a weekend where three movies brought in $188 million between them, so $200 million divided between two movies isn't unfathomable. We also can't forget that Marvel's The Avengers made more than that amount on its own, though it's not like it had a lot of other options when it opened. It's good to note that both of those blockbuster match-ups happened in late June when schools were out and there were more potential moviegoers than there would be before Memorial Day.
But now let's think about this scenario: Warner Bros. has had a long-standing deal with IMAX for many of their biggest movies going back for many years, and Marvel Studios followed suit, releasing their recent movies in IMAX 3D. Currently, there are less than 400 IMAX theaters in the country and even considering there will probably be a lot more in two years, there's definitely a large percentage of moviegoers who will want to see one or both movies in the format and I honestly can't see them dividing up screens as they sometimes do when there are multiple IMAX movies in theaters.
Going by Marvel's track record, they'll probably open Captain America 3 a week or two early internationally, so if the current scheduling sticks, it already will be making money before Warner Bros.' movie even opens.
Not that it matters much, because if this scenario sticks, it's just going to be one big competition.
Which movie made more in Thursday previews? Which one made more on Friday? Which one got better reviews? Which got a higher CinemaScore? It'll just be a constant bit of one-upmanship that seems so unnecessary for a business that is presumably being run by adults with business and other college degrees. You just know that each studio will have to go all-out, not just trying to get more screens, but also to get their talent onto the talk shows and get the most high profile ads, billboards, etc.
Doesn't anyone remember 2008 and all the arguments that ensued between Iron Man and The Dark Knight fans trying to justify why their personal favorite was the better movie? (Those arguments are still taking place almost six years later!) Do we really need to see those sorts of arguments happening again along with minute-by-minute news reports on how each movie is doing? They're going to happen anyway, but why exacerbate it with a simultaneous day-and-date release?
That middle question is a rhetorical one because the answer is "no." The only one who really wants to see this box office battle happen are the same fanboys who argue over which fictional superhero character is stronger, smarter, etc. You might THINK you want to see this happen, but really, you don't.
So what to do about it? I thought Warner Bros. would do perfectly well with Batman vs. Superman by releasing it on June 24, 2016, a later summer date in which the company has done well with other movies. This of course means they'll be following three other superhero movies that summer, assuming none of them move off their current dates, and the worry is that by the time the movie comes out, there's likely to be a growing ennui against superhero movies, even one as potentially big as Batman vs. Superman. It would also be rather embarrassing if Warner Bros. does all this build-up to their next big DC Comics movie, one featuring the company's two brand name powerhouses, and it doesn't do as well as any of the three other superhero movies that summer.
David Poland of Movie City News, a very smart and logical guy who has been covering the movie business a lot longer than I have, thinks that Warner Bros. should beat Marvel at their own game by releasing their tentpole movie in April 2016, ahead of all the others. This is actually a pretty good idea and as we saw by the opening for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's possible to have a blockbuster opening weekend regardless of the month.
Warner Bros.' next big superhero movie is clearly a lot further along in terms of production than any of the other superhero movies for 2016 since most of those involved are finishing up their movies and doing promotion. Some of them probably don't even have a finished script yet. That alone makes this Warner Bros.' ballgame since they're solely focused on hopefully making the best Superman sequel and Batman reboot they can make. They've already established enough groundwork with Man of Steel and Christopher Nolan's "Batman" movies that it's likely to be the biggest movie of 2016 whichever weekend it's released.
But with all that in mind, why bother with this game of chicken and all the d*ck measuring and posturing that surrounds it? For Marvel, it's pretty obvious. They want people to go out and see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, currently in theaters. Getting the fans talking and debating a potential face-off against Warner Bros. and DC will get more people interested in seeing their current movie. And it's working, too.
Warner Bros. on the other hand gains nothing by continuing to hold their ground on a date that Marvel already had staked out for themselves beforehand. 2016 is already looking like it's going to put moviegoers to the test on how many superhero movies they'll go see in the course of a couple of months, and Warner Bros. would be best off moving earlier and kicking things off… or moving later and batting clean up.
So whether or not you agree with my opinion on this and still truly believe that come May 6, 2016, your biggest decision will have to be which of these movies to see first, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. Even if it's just to call me a big old buzzkill.