“Blockbuster” has become the Kleenex of box-office descriptors, a bland adjective used to describe nine-figure films ranging from the obvious (“Star Wars”) to the also-ran (“The Mummy”). And then there’s the rare movie that genuinely deserves all the force and muscle that blockbusting suggests: Right now, it’s Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”
As final numbers for the DC Comics movie from Warner Bros. come into clearer view, the “Wonder Woman”performance is better than even the most optimistic pre-opening estimates. It fell just 30 percent for its third weekend, grossing $41 million for a 17-day total of $275 million domestic, $572 million worldwide. (How good is that hold? “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was considered above average when its third weekend saw a 47 percent drop.)
Expect the final domestic total to end up somewhere between $380 million and $400 million — although another strong weekend might send it above even that. Worldwide, it will rise above $800 million.
Beyond the money, however, there’s something just as important: the bragging rights. Here’s what “Wonder Woman” means in terms of records and relative achievement.
Biggest Grossing Live-Action Film Directed by a Woman, Domestic and Worldwide
Three weeks ago, we surveyed the history of female-directed movies and found in adjusted ticket prices, Amy Heckerling’s 1989 “Look Who’s Talking” was the winner at $303 million. That seemed like a high-end goal for “Wonder Woman,” but not only will Jenkins’ movie will crush that record by Saturday, it will set a “clean” record that beats out the highest unadjusted numbers as well.
Phyllida Lloyd’s “Mamma Mia” has been the biggest worldwide live-action film directed by a woman, adjusted at roughly $730 million. So though it will take a little longer, “Wonder Woman” should top that one as well.
The top two female-directed all-time hits are animated, and co-directed with men. Adjusted, “Frozen” (Jennifer Lee) is at $433 million, and “Shrek” (Vicky Jenson) $418 million. Both seem just out of reach for “Wonder Woman,” but not impossible.
For all its success, one discordant note is foreign is underperforming compared to domestic. As of now, their relative shares will be close to equal, unusual these days when hits can do more than 80% in foreign. That’s likely due to the gender of its lead rather than its director, as well as competition from films like “The Mummy” — a flop at home, but a hit overseas.
It also means “Wonder Woman” won’t outgross the adjusted $550 million Lloyd earned overseas. However, foreign projections are trickier: Two major territories — Spain, and the potentially significant Japan — have yet to open, with Japan waiting until the end of August.
It Could Make More Than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
When “Wonder Woman” opened to $103 million, matching the already-enormous “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” seemed impossible. The Marvel sequel already had passed $350 million, with more to come.
After its own strong hold, “Guardians” is at $375 million domestic and will likely get to $395 million. That’s at the upper end of the “Wonder Woman” projection, but it will be a tight race.
“Wonder Woman” Could Have a Record Multiple for the Genre
For any wide release, the opening weekend gives some indication of its domestic total. A multiple of three or more is excellent, but that’s tough to match for any film that opens above $100 million. If “Wonder Woman” hits $380 million, it will have an extraordinary 3.7 multiple.
Already, it will have a very credible 2.7 times multiple. But at 3.7, it would not only leave “Guardians” in the dust, but also beat every other comic book movie from D.C. or Marvel going back to 1990. Its performance would best “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man,” “The Avengers,” and all their iterations. (The other best comic book character performer for the era? “Men in Black” in 1997, with a nearly five times multiple.)
“Wonder Woman” Will Be Among D.C. and Marvel’s Top Franchise-Launching Films
Along with with the animation studios, D.C. and Marvel are the most reliable provider of top grossing films. Between them, 57 titles have adjusted domestic totals of $100 million or more, with 10 grossing over $430 million. This includes two “Avengers,” two “Dark Knight” movies, Tim Burton’s “Batman,” three “Spider-Man” releases, the 1978 “Superman,” and “Iron Man 3” — all told, the pantheon of the genre.
At $380 million, “Wonder Woman” would rank #14 among these smashes; $400 million would bring it up to #12. But among franchise/character-starting titles, $380 million would place it behind only “The Avengers,” “Spider-Man,” and “Iron Man.” It will be ahead “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Deadpool,” “X-Men,” Christopher Nolan’s initial “Batman,” “Captain America,” “Thor,” and all similar universes.
And within the awkwardly categorized D.C. Extended Universe series Warners currently oversees, it will easily top the other three (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” and “Man of Steel”).
The First Woman-Directed, Live-Action Film to Reach the Top 150
This final record is impressive, but also shows how far the business has to go. At $380 million, “Wonder Woman” would rank about #150, just behind such classics as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Rain Man” as well as recent smashes “Inside Out” and “American Sniper.”
That means the remaining 149 films were either directed or co-directed by men. It’s a higher ranking than any African-American directed film (though worldwide, “Furious 7” is in the upper echelon, now nearing $1.3 billion). The all-time list remains overwhelmingly white male.
What Patty Jenkins has achieved is spectacular. But unless it opens the doors to many more like her, it will stand as a Hollywood anomaly rather a sea change.