Yes, we all know that Justice League’s $94 million opening weekend was a disappointment, the lowest of all DCEU movies, and that the film failed to meet even lowered expectations from Warner Bros. But even so, it’s still a lot of money, and when the dust settles, the movie will still be profitable for Warner Bros, just not as profitable as it could have been. Right? Well, maybe not.
Over at Forbes, Rob Cain, a film finance consultant and producer, and also a former studio exec, uses his knowledge of the industry to break down how much of Justice League’s revenue will actually end up at Warner Bros. Cain takes into account not only worldwide box office, but also home entertainment, TV revenue, and overhead fees, though it excludes merchandising. All in all, Cain expects Justice League to net $575 million of the $635 million theatrical gross, $170 million in home entertainment, $100 million in TV, and $30 million in fees, once everyone else in the chain takes their cut.
That’s still a lot of money. But is it more than Warner Bros spent on the movie? Cain guesses that it isn’t. He tallies up $300 million for the budget, $150 million in marketing, $60 million for home entertainment expenses, $20 million dollars for residuals, $20 million for interest, and $50 million for talent participation, for a grand total of $600 million. Even worse, Cain notes that the costs for the film were mostly paid up front, but aside from box office revenue, which will return to Warner Bros within a year, home entertainment and TV revenue could take years to come back to the studio. Additionally, Cain estimates $40 million in overhead costs, bringing the total loss up to $65 million.
On the bright side, Cain says that the merchandising net revenue he left out of the picture could be $100 million a year for Warner Bros, which would eventually push the movie past the break even point, just barely. Additionally, Cain doesn’t take into account how wildly successful a Zack Snyder director’s cut of Justice League would rake in if all 120,000 people who signed the petition demanding it bought a copy for $19.99. Of course, Warner Bros would have to spend even more money to add visual effects to all of those unfinished scenes. Regardless, Warner Bros is likely going to look twice at sinking that much money into a superhero movie for the foreseeable future.