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Time Warner's Warner Bros. has yet to score a billion-dollar global hit with its series of interconnected DC comics movies, despite featuring heavyweights like Batman and Superman.
The studio's latest blockbuster, the superhero team-up "Justice League," appears poised to extend the streak.
The movie is pacing for a $96 million North American opening, below expectations and the weakest haul for the five DC extended universe movies that Warner has released. That could make it hard for the film to rise to the high-water mark that first four movies failed to hit.
Meanwhile, four of Disney's 17 Marvel comics movies have rung the billion-dollar bell at the worldwide box office.
By contrast, "Justice League" got off to a rocky start when it earned $13 million in Thursday night viewings.
That's a respectable haul, but it comes in below the $14.5 million that Disney's "Thor: Ragnarok" earned on Thursday night two weeks ago, when it sailed to a $122.7 million three-day opening.
It's also less than half the Thursday-night gross that "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" drummed up last year. The preamble to "Justice League" earned $27.7 million overnight on its way to a massive $166 million weekend gross.
Despite their strong starts, last year's "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad" lost steam at the U.S. box office quickly, weighed down by abysmal reviews and poor word of mouth. They scored just 27 percent and 26 percent, respectively, out of 100 percent on ratings aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.
The Rotten Tomatoes score for "Justice League" is 39 percent, putting it in the middle of the pack for DC's five extended universe movies.
But there's some room for hope. Its rating among fans on Rotten Tomatoes currently sits at 86 percent. That's just shy of the 89 percent approval rating for this summer's "Wonder Woman," DC's only critical hit to date.
Meanwhile, comScore and Screen Engine's PostTrak audience survey shows "Justice League" is generating a "solid" 4 out of 5 stars, comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said in an email.
That is based on an audience that is nearly two-thirds male. Females over 25 are giving "Justice League" a "whopping" 93% positive score, he said. That is "likely reflecting the favorable presence of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman," he added.
"Justice League" is widely expected to reap a goodwill dividend from "Wonder Woman," which blew past expectations this summer to earn $412.5 million domestically and $821.7 million worldwide.
Fans have praised Israeli actress Gal Gadot's portrayal of the Amazonian princess, calling it the highlight of "Batman v Superman." Her starring role in "Justice League," hot on the heels of her solo outing, could help lift the movie toward the elusive $1 billion level.
Positive word of mouth could bolster DC's super heroes in the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. "Justice League" also faces little competition until until "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" premiers in mid-December.