"Suicide Squad," the highly anticipated supervillain film from the DC Universe, set a box office record for August, challenging the film’s critics and furthering the precedent set by "Guardians of the Galaxy" of releasing summer blockbuster-style films in August.
Traditionally, the latter half of August in particular has been considered a “dump month” for the film industry. Based off the assumption that, by the end of summer, the major blockbuster genre would be exhausted, studios treated some parts of August similar to low-profile month January. But when "Guardians of the Galaxy" came out at the beginning of August 2014 and brought in a record-setting $94.3 million, "Guardians" demonstrated further that the beginning of the month could be quite lucrative.
This August will see the release not just of "Suicide Squad," but also two major remakes, Disney’s "Pete’s Dragon" and "Ben-Hur," a new version of the classic 1959 Charlton Heston epic of the same name.
Already, box office numbers are looking impressive for the beginning of the month. Not only did "Suicide Squad" set the overall record for an August opening weekend, but it also became the largest August showing for a film in the IMAX format, with $18.2 million in sales. The movie also represents the biggest opening weekend of star Will Smith’s career, with his record previously having been set in 2007 at $77.2 million for the film "I Am Legend."
Much of the film’s early financial success can be attributed to its enormously anticipated release. In recent years, Marvel and DC Universe films have done well at the box office, and expectations were that the $175 million, David Ayer-directed villain collaboration would be no different. With Jared Leto playing the notorious Batman villain the Joker (the first time the character was seen onscreen since Heath Ledger's posthumous Academy Award-winning performance in Christopher Nolan’s "The Dark Knight") and Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Viola Davis starring in the film, "Suicide Squad" garnered a great deal of hype and publicity from the very beginning. For example, last August, the all-star cast made news when several members posted photos via Twitter of them giving each other matching tattoos of the word “sqwad” in reference to the film’s title.
While box office numbers have been high, the critical response to "Suicide Squad" has not matched the record financial highs, with the movie earning a lackluster 26 percent rating on the popular film site Rotten Tomatoes.
What remains to be seen is whether the box office performance of "Suicide Squad" will echo that of fellow DC Comics film "Batman v Superman." Like "Squad," "Batman" did very well financially in its first weekend but got poor reviews and its financial performance dropped sharply in subsequent weekends. Now some industry experts are predicting "Squad" will do the same. "David Ayer's ensemble pic must survive weak reviews and a middling CinemaScore (B plus) to hold on in the coming weeks," Los Angeles Times writer Steven Zeitchik writes. "Past DC movies, including 'Man of Steel' and 'Batman v Superman,' have fallen at least 65% in their second weekends, a precipitous drop. Such a fall for 'Suicide Squad' could revive talk of the durability of DC films."
However, "Suicide Squad"’s record-breaking opening weekend box office numbers speak highly both for the genre and for the film industry as a whole – marking a step further in the direction of major, successful film releases later in the summer.