Brandon Routh
David James  /  WARNER BROS.
Are those his real muscles? Actor Brandon Routh plays the Man of Steel in 'Superman Returns.' Warner Bros. is releasing the movie a full week ahead of July 4.
By Reporter
CNBC
updated 6/1/2006 2:09:46 PM ET 2006-06-01T18:09:46

Warner Bros. is betting big “Superman Returns” will be a huge summer blockbuster.

With the studio’s $180 million “Poseidon Adventure” bombing at the box office, there’s even more pressure for Superman to take off. That's one reason the company pushed up its release date by two days, to the Wednesday before the July 4 weekend. Warner Bros. says that “Superman Returns” cost $204 million to make, but others in the know say the budget topped a stunning $280 million.

But can it make money? Insider Hollywood sources calculate that "Superman" would have to hit about $400 million in the worldwide box office — with about $170 million in the U.S. alone — to break even. Those numbers are well within reach for the Man of Steel, considering his long and profitable history. “Spiderman 2” made a whopping $784 million at the global box office and $374 million domestically — all that for a guy who can’t even fly.

Everything made after they break even is gravy for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, which is co-financing the film. CNBC's sources say Warner gets the first $150 million or so, then distribution fees give it roughly a 60/40 split with Legendary.

“These days you see a lot of the blockbusters really making business the first one or two weeks in release. And so that’s a chance for them to make a few extra bucks early on in the process,” said Hollywood Reporter business editor Georg Szalai. 

Fourth of July weekend can be huge. In 2004 “Spider Man 2” racked up $180 million during the six-day weekend, and last year “War of the Worlds” amassed $112.7 million in the six-day stretch. "Superman" could top $100 million in the week before July 4. Releasing on a Wednesday, "Superman" will draw obsessive “fan boys” to theaters opening night, making room for other moviegoers the rest of the weekend.

Opening weekends are increasingly important. Bolstered by a big marketing push, they make up a bigger chunk of the overall box office. Warner wants to cash in before it faces more competition the following Friday from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” from Disney’s Buena Vista.

"Superman" promises to have quite a profitable run, considering that it can attract both older viewers who remember Christopher Reeves as Superman, and young fans of the comic book series. Though the video game won’t be out until September, other licensing potential is huge. There are also Superman toys, apparel and potential spin-offs in the works

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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