'Batman v Superman' breaks box office records, despite critics

'Batman v Superman' defied negative reviews and now holds the record for best opening for a film in March ever, beating out 'The Hunger Games' and others. 

Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment/AP
'Batman v Superman' stars Gal Gadot (l.) and Ben Affleck (r.).

"Batman v Superman" came in first at the box office this past weekend, setting various records along the way.

The superhero movie, starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gado, which tells the story of the Caped Crusader and Superman facing off, somehow defied the critics' unenthusiastic response for a win.

Audiences turned out for the film in large numbers and the movie now holds the record for the biggest March opening ever and the best opening weekend for a movie based on a DC Comics story.

"Batman v Superman" grossed more than $170 million this past weekend, far more than director Zack Snyder’s previous superhero film, "Man of Steel," which opened in 2013 with more than $116 million.

The Disney animated film "Zootopia" placed second, grossing more than $23 million domestically after having been released at the beginning of March, and the new romantic comedy sequel "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" opened with more than $18 million domestically, came in third. 

The Jennifer Garner film "Miracles From Heaven" and the young adult dystopian film "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" came in fourth and fifth, respectively, each grossing more than $9 million domestically. 

Why did "Batman v Superman" do so well despite the negative reviews? The superheroes in the title were likely part of the appeal for moviegoers. Both Superman and Batman are instantly recognizable parts of not only comic books but of pop culture in general as well. 

Associated Press writer Jake Coyle credited "the allure of seeing two of the most iconic superheroes battle it out" as having caused "Batman" to achieve its records.

"It proves that the concept is bigger than negative reviews," Paul Dergarabedian of the company comScore told the AP. "There was no way that if you're a comic book fan or just a movie fan that you're going to miss out on a match-up of such iconic characters."

Studio Warner Bros. also made an effort to get the word out there, if non-comic book fans were previously unaware that the film was happening. Brent Lang of Variety noted that Warner Bros. spent "millions more in promotional razzle dazzle. The bet appears to have paid off...." 

And despite those mixed reviews, Washington Post writer Michael Cavna writes that a knowledge of the characters involved can trump negative reviews for many moviegoers.

"Whatever the source material, be it book or play or video game or toy, Hollywood is supremely skilled at selling you a name you already recognize," Mr. Cavna wrote. "Warm familiarity can render much criticism muted."

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