Good Friday was very good to Warner Bros., which saw its new comic book epic "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" gross an estimated $82 million from 4,242 theaters on Friday, putting the Zack Snyder film on track to smash the previous record for a pre-summer debut.
The movie, which pits Ben Affleck's Batman against Henry Cavill's Superman, and includes the introduction of Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, is on pace to gross $172 million by the end of Easter weekend, surpassing the $152.2 million March opening of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
At that rate, "Batman v Superman," which cost more $250 million to produce, will also become the No. 6 opening for any film and the No. 1 opening for a Batman film, surpassing Chris Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises," which debuted to $160.9 million.
The strong debut is a needed hit for Warner Bros., which intends "Batman v Superman" to be a launchpad for a series of films in the DC Comics cinematic universe.
The early box office numbers, which include $27.7 million from Thursday night previews, have been robust even though the movie drew relatively poor reviews from critics. Opening weekend audiences were slightly more charitable, giving it a B CinemaScore rating.
"Batman v Superman," has begun its global rollout as well, collecting $44 million so far in foreign box office, $21.2 million of it from China.
Universal Pictures' counterprogramming bid, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," is also performing strongly thanks to primarily female audiences. Nia Vardolos' sequel to her 2002 surprise hit, the only other new movie in wide release this weekend, took in $7.2 million Friday, placing it in third place behind Disney's animated hit, "Zootopia," now in its fourth week in release.
That opening puts the family comedy on track to gross $19 million for the weekend, well ahead of tracking estimates that placed its opening at $10 million. With a CinemaScore of A-minus and an audience base of older women, who tend not to rush out on opening weekend, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" looks likely to continue to play well in coming weeks.