It's no secret that Warner Bros.' DC movies have struggled to mimic the success of rival Marvel.
While films about Superman and Batman have done well at the box office, the franchise has been no match for Marvel. As Marvel prepares to release the 22nd film in its cinematic universe, its movies have already earned $18.5 billion at the global box office. "Avengers: Endgame," a major climactic event, is setting records for advance ticket sales, and fans are already asking for more.
Warner Bros. has released only six films in the DC Extended Universe since 2013, and they have garnered just under $5 billion. "Shazam," a lighthearted popcorn flick that opens Friday, will be the seventh.
Estimates for the film have been set low, about $50 million for the weekend's haul, but expectations are high. The film currently has a 92 percent "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a good sign ahead of its opening.
More importantly, "Shazam" is a chance for DC to continue to build on its recent successes with "Wonder Woman" and "Aquaman." It spins the tale of a young teenager who transforms into an adult superhero when he shouts the name "Shazam" — think "Superman" meets "Big."
Trailers for "Shazam" have been bright and packed with humor, something DC's universe has been sorely lacking. In the last six years, DC's wave of superhero films have been dark, droll and disappointing to fans.
If it succeeds, it will cement the idea that audiences are more willing to open up their wallets when Warner Bros. strays from the Marvel strategy of continuity between films and embraces its more unique — and even obscure — characters.
"They have a formula that's working," said Brock Bagby, executive vice president at B&B Theatres. "If they continue that, they'll gain even more loyalty. Just like Marvel, [DC] has to be consistent if it wants to be highly successful."