Fate of Superman Sequel Still Up in the Air

Trade journal Variety did an analysis piece on whether Bryan Singer's Superman Returns is likely to spur a sequel or not.
Will there be another Superman big screen film?

Variety looked at all of the factors at play in that decision, including domestic and international box office sales, projected DVD revenue and negative fan and critical feedback. The trade decided that Warner Bros. is still trying to lock down a deal with director Bryan Singer, including possible over-the-budget penalties.

"The film is not such a blockbuster that a follow-up is inevitable -- but not such a disappointment that a sequel would be ludicrous," the article states. "After all, the first 'Austin Powers' pic was a modest hit that begat two huge grossers."

Variety did say that it thinks the film will break even: "Warners and co-financing partner Legendary Pictures have a shot at breaking even on 'Superman' once all the revenue streams are accounted for, but it's going to be a long, tough haul," the article said.

"Warners and Legendary -- which splits all profits with the studio down the middle -- are counting on strong home entertainment sales to make up for slower-than-expected box office."

Variety says its source speculate the studio has too much time and money invested to walk away from the franchise now.

The article cites Singer's statement at the recent Comic-Con that he plans to "go all Wrath of Khan on the next installment -- a reference to the fact that Paramount's long-running 'Star Trek' film franchise really kicked in with its second installment, which was tighter, faster and better received than the original "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

Rumors have surfaced that the sequel's villain would be Zod, possibly played by Jude Law. Talk also has it that Warner Bros. would set the budget of the sequel at $200 million but the studio denies such a cap is on the table.

"Sequels are generally costlier than the original pics, since they need more action and more special effects to tempt auds. In theory, a 'Superman' follow-up could be cheaper, since expensive sets are already built, and some CGI experimentation is out of the way (e.g., how does his cape look when he flies?)," the article says. However, Universal gave up on the Hulk after just one movie, despite having the CGI in the can.

But is Superman too "retro" for modern audiences, who seem to prefer darker, more complicated characters such as Batman or Spider-Man.

The trade notes that WB's "Batman Begins" grossed $203.5 million domestically and $166.5 million overseas. "Superman Returns" could edge past its predecessor. It has grossed $190.5 million in the U.S. and $146.5 million overseas, where it has yet to open in several key territories. Conservative estimates are that the pic will gross at least $170 million overseas, bringing its worldwide total to about $360 million.

The article continues: But "Superman" was far more expensive than "Batman," whose sequel, "The Dark Knight," was just announced by Warners. Pricetag for "Superman" included a production budget of at least $223 million, offset by $20 million in Australian tax breaks. The P&A budget was well north of $100 million.

There is an added $40 million in previous development costs for earlier aborted attempts to resurrect the superhero. The studio wrote off those costs in previous years, it said.
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