Why The R-Rated 'Batman v Superman' Three Hour Cut Needs to Be Released Now

If Warner Bros. wants to salvage their investment, they need to be faster than The Flash.

YouTube.com/Warner Bros. Pictures

After a strong opening weekend at the box office, Zack Snyder’s super grim Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has struggled since, falling out of first place after just two weeks, courtesy of Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy, The Boss. That’s bad news for Warner Bros., which has a ton riding on the DC franchise, and so the studio looks like it may be pulling off a desperate attempt to salvage the film’s theatrical run.

An R-rated, three-hour version of the film, which runs two-and-a-half hours in its theatrical incarnation, is expected to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray as an “Ultimate Edition” this summer — and perhaps, according to reports, in theaters. And while the move is actually a smart one, Warner Bros. has to do it quick if they want to reap any benefit.

On a recent episode of the Heroic Insider podcast, bloggers Umberto Gonzalez and Daniel Alter said Warner Bros. is looking to release the R-rated cut in theaters to coincide with the home release. With the theatrical version suffering from pacing issues and poorly defined characters (among other things), an extra 30 minutes is compelling enough for some moviegoers to give Dawn of Justice another shot (its B CinemaScore indicates few viewers enjoyed it). (Plus, there’s the built-in fandom who un-heroically threatened critics willing to see deleted scenes on a big screen). Whether it’s enough to make anyone shell out another $12-$17 is a different matter, but the release is a clear sign Warner Bros. will do anything to make its massive investment worthwhile.

Analysts agree a $1 billion boxx office take is the bare minimum for Warner Bros. to consider the film as a success. Following its opening, Dawn of Justice suffered an 81 percent drop in ticket sales, and in total, Warner Bros. is looking at a middling profit of $278 million according to Bloomberg. For comparison, Man of Steel starring a solo Superman (Henry Cavill) earned the studio a $300 million share of theatrical profit in 2013.

Batman v Superman made (and is still making) money, it’s just not the colossal winner the studio hoped for. In the wake of Dawn of Justice, THR reported the studio is looking to release fewer films after Dawn of Justice became its latest in a succession of expensive bombs, preceded by Jupiter Ascending and In the Heart of the Sea.

Rereleasing Dawn of Justice’s rumored R-rated cut to an eager legion of fans is one way to squeeze some extra dollars out of their underwhelming production. But will movie theaters play along? Knowing how much of a drop in tickets Dawn of Justice yielded, theaters would have to sacrifice showing anything else that can make money, unless Warner Bros. acts right now. A substantial amount of theaters worldwide are still screening the film, but each week, that number declines, according to Box Office Mojo.

There’s no “saving” Dawn of Justice’s critical reputation. But whether Warner Bros. can at least make a bit more money depends — if the studio can act faster than a speeding bullet.

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