In the cinematic battle between two of the world's greatest superheroes, the true winner is Warner Bros., whose "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" now holds the record for largest pre-summer debut. Grossing a whopping estimated $170.1 million in the U.S. and Canada, the film bests the former record-holder, 2012's "The Hunger Games, which had a $152.2-million March opening.
The Zack Snyder-directed picture also is the largest opening of a Batman film ever, surpassing Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises," which debuted to $160.9 million in 2012, and the sixth-best opening for any film, overtaking 2011's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2."
"To have this extraordinary result is gratifying," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. executive vice president of distribution. "We're proud of the film on so many levels."
The picture pits Ben Affleck's Batman against Henry Cavill's Superman. It also includes the introduction of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor.
"Batman v Superman's" stellar opening is perhaps surprising given that most movie critics didn't favor the picture. Going into the weekend, 146 reviewers on the critic site Rotten Tomatoes gave the PG-13 picture a measly 33% positive rating. Sunday, the positive rating had decreased to just 29%, with 262 reviews being counted.
But audiences on the whole disagreed. Moviegoers gave the DC Comics adaptation a respectable B grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Those younger than 25 gave it a B-plus; those under 18 gave it an A-minus.
"It was such a disconnect with what the critics were writing because the fans were interested," Goldstein said. "This movie was made for a global fan base, and the fans embraced it in such a big way."
Senior Media Analyst for comScore Paul Dergarabedian agreed, noting that the studio's decision to release over Easter weekend, as opposed to the pre-planned summer date, provided "unfettered access" to its core audience.
"We can now put to bed the notion that reviews were going to hurt ['Batman v Superman]," he said. "And if they did, I'm not seeing it. This film proved to be, despite tough reviews, absolutely irresistible to fans around the world."
Internationally, the movie opened to $254 million, making it the fourth-biggest global opening ever at a total of $424.1 million.
Nearly 40% of the total domestic gross for "Batman v Superman" came from 3-D showtimes. RealD, the leading licensor of 3-D technologies, accounted for an estimated $47 million of the film's domestic box office, while IMAX theaters pulled in $18 million domestically.
The success of the $250-million comic book epic is a welcome hit for Warner Bros., which stumbled last year with a number of high-profile flops including "Jupiter Ascending," "In the Heart of the Sea" and "Pan." But "Batman v Superman" is a launchpad for a series of films in the DC Comics cinematic universe: "Suicide Squad" comes out in August followed by "Wonder Woman" next year and the first "Justice League" film.
Also opening this weekend was Universal Pictures' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2." Thanks primarily to female moviegoers, Nia Vardalos' sequel to her 2002 surprise hit took in a formidable $18.1 million, well exceeding its $10-million projections from analysts.
"It's been many many years in the making, and obviously audiences are responding," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution.
The film was produced by Gold Circle Entertainment, HBO and Playtone.
In what seems like par for the weekend, critics also didn't like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 24%. Audiences, however, gave it an impressive A-minus CinemaScore.
Fourteen years later, Carpou said, the concept of family as told through "Wedding" has not gone stale. He expects the film to continue to play well in coming weeks and among families of all backgrounds.
Regardless, it placed third at the box office, behind Disney's animated hit, "Zootopia," now in its fourth week in release.
The film voiced by the likes of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Shakira and Octavia Spencer garnered $23.1 million this weekend. That brings the film's domestic gross to date to $240.5 million and its global gross to $696.8 million.
Rounding out the top five were Sony's "Miracles From Heaven" and Lionsgate's "The Divergent Series: Allegiant." Both in their second week, each film pulled in another $9.5 million for $34.1 million and $46.6 million grosses to date, respectively.