One day before "Man of Steel" hits theaters nationwide, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures see an $85 million opening weekend, the tracking is at $95 million and the analysts say it will hit $105 million at box office over the three days.
Somewhere in the middle of those estimates seems likely, and $100 million is a nice round number. When you're talking about a movie with a $200 million production budget that is aiming for $1 billion in worldwide box office, you wouldn't think $15 million one way or another would matter all that much.
But it could make a lot of difference in the way "Man of Steel" is perceived in the media and by moviegoers.
"Only 24 films have hit that $100 million on their opening weekend, so it's rare," said Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock. "That extra zero can make a big difference in the headlines, which translates to word of mouth and buzz."
An underwhelming number would work the opposite way, but Bock is convinced "Man of Steel" is more likely to over-perform than come in under the projections.
"Comic book movies can do that," he said. "Because of the fan boys, these movies have more power behind them than most films, and this one really is highly anticipated."
Henry Cavill plays Superman, but if "Man of Steel" soars, Christopher Nolan may be seen as the real superhero.
The director of Warner Bros.' Batman trilogy produced and wrote the story on the reboot, the first Superman movie in seven years. It rolls out Friday in a whopping 4,207 theaters, 3,350 of which will be 3D, with 331 Imax screens. The premium pricing from the special-format locations — more than 80 percent of the total — are expected to provide a major boost for "Man of Steel."
In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Warner Bros. is debuting "Man of Steel" in 24 foreign markets Friday, including three of the top 10, the U.K., South Korea and Mexico. It will go into an additional 26 markets next weekend, including China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain. It opened Thursday in the Philippines, and posted that country's biggest opening day ever with $1.7 million. It also opened in Taiwan, where it was pacing ahead of "Dark Knight" and "Harry Potter."
Superman, like Batman, is a very American superhero and has not traditionally performed strongly overseas. But "Dark Knight Rises" reversed that trend for the Caped Crusader and Warner Bros. is hoping Nolan's involvement will help with "Man of Steel." An overseas total in the $350 million range seems possible, with domestic expected to approach $300 million.
Nolan's vision for "Man of Steel" is darker than that of previous franchise entries, most of which have done lackluster box-office business, in part because they've failed to connect with the rabid fanboy base that has driven some of the biggest superhero blockbusters
The studio's last attempt at a reboot — "Superman Returns" in 2006 — took in a so-so $200 million domestically and not quite that much overseas. But comic book fans never warmed to it the way they have with Marvel's grittier superheroes — or Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy.
Selling them is critical if Warner Bros. hopes to replicate the sort of success Disney had last year with Marvel's "The Avengers," and launch its own universe of superheroes and a franchise based on the Justice League. That's the DC Comics' all-star team made up of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and a host of other superheroes.
Zach Snyder ("300") directs "Man of Steel," from a script that was co-written by Nolan and David S. Goyer, who co-wrote Nolan's Batman movies. Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne are among the co-stars.
The reviews have been good but not great, and "Man of Steel" has a 60 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Cavill has been generally well-received and Shannon has drawn raves from critics for his portrayal of General Zod, the baddie from Krypton, Superman's home planet, whose aim is to conquer Earth and wipe out humanity.
Social media signs are strong, and Twitter activity spiked earlier this week. It has been tweeted 73,719 times, considerably more than "The Amazing Spider-Man," Sony's successful 2012 reboot of its superhero franchise, which had been dormant for five years.
The weekend's other wide opener is Seth Rogen's star-studded and R-rated apocalypse comedy "This is the End."
It took in a strong $7.8 million in its debut Wednesday for distributor Sony and will be on 3,055 theaters this weekend. It's over-performing so far, with a three-day total north of $35 million now looking likely.
The raunchy plot from Rogen and Evan Goldberg revolves around James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera playing obnoxious versions of themselves dealing with the end of the world — at a party at Franco's pad. Rihanna, Emma Watson and Mindy Kaling make cameos.
The reviews have been great (81 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and it received a "B+" CinemaScore, so word of mouth should be strong.
A key for "This is the End" will be whether the film's high-concept, low-brow humor plays in Middle America. Strong showings on the coasts and big cities could do the profitability trick however, since the production budget is $32 million.
Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" tops the list of specialty openings this week. Distributor A24 will launch the film, which opened the Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, in three theaters in L.A. and two in New York.
“The Bling Ring” stars Emma Watson, as well as Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann and Kirsten Dunst. The R-rated crime comedy is based on the Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch — aka the Bling Ring — a group of teenagers who pulled off some brazen heists of celebrity homes, including those of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox and Orlando Bloom, taking up to $3 million worth of goods.
Sony Classics is sharply expanding the R-rated drama "Before Midnight" from 50 to 600 theaters.
It's the third installment in a trilogy that began with "Before Sunrise" in 1995 and continued with "Before Sunset" in 2004. Director Richard Linklater has reunited actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke to tell more of the story of Celine and Jesse, a couple who met on a train heading for Vienna in the first movie, reunited in Paris in the second, and now find themselves a married couple with kids and tensions on a Greek vacation.