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Thinking outside the box office: 'Boss' may be kryptonite for Superman

How are Batman and Superman going to save Metropolis if theycan't even save themselves?

The antagonistic superduo is fighting for Hollywood credibility,and seems to be losing. Projections for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"were floating up in themid-$60 million range for the April 1 second weekend in theaters, but the flickonly brought in $51.8 million, a decline of 69% from its big opening weekend take.That is a record second-weekend decline for either a Batman or Superman film, Variety reports.

Observers critical of the film expected Warner Bros. to takea hint. The movie received terrible reviews, and obviously the movie-going publicis reacting in turn. Changes should be made, critics say, but Time Warner Inc.'s filmmaking unit disagrees.

The studio says everything is fine, even at a time when its stabilityis already being questioned after an executive shake-up that saw the company's presidentget booted and defect to Walt DisneyCo. Expensive flops like "Jupiter Ascending" and "Pan"are causing many to question the studio's judgment.

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Source: Universal Pictures

Granted, "Batman v Superman" was not necessarily aflop. BoxOffice.com projects it will make $24 million during the April 8 weekend,bringing its domestic total to $297.2 million, roughly equaling its production budget.But it does seem disappointing for a tentpole that was intended to be leveragedinto a massive franchise.

The studio was reportedly "shocked" when the negativereviews started flowing in, and many expected changes to be made to Warner Bros.'DC franchise plans, such as a shorter list of follow-up films, a new producer ora new director. But those expectations seem to be falling on deaf ears. Warner Bros.will press forward with its original intent, sources told TheHollywood Reporter, and the public will have its Justice League, no matter what.

But in the end, Warner Bros. is still counting the dollar bills.The film is expected to top charts again during the weekend of April 8, even ifthe amount is less than some investors may hope.

It will get some competition from two debuts.

Melissa McCarthy comedy, "The Boss," will debut in3,481 locations, and it is expected to fare well for a $29 million production. BoxOffice.comweighed in with a $17.5 million forecast. Varietyupped that a few notches with an estimate of $21 million. DeadlineHollywood offered the most bullish forecast, with a range that went as highas the mid-$20 million mark. So "The Boss" could give the superheroesa good fight of its own at the box office if the estimates are correct.

The R-rated comedy, which follows the downfall of an opulentand derisive billionaire accused of insider trading, comes in a line of other female-ledcomedies that are gaining as much popularity with studios as they are revenue. Agroup of similar titles — including "Bridesmaids," which is credited withkicking off the trend — saw an average profit margin of 32.6%. Typically, the filmscarry a middling budget, with the average being about $39.7 million, and collectnear that during their debuts, with the opening-weekend average at $30.1 million.

The critical response does not seem to affect the group's performancemuch. Other McCarthy-led titles in the list received very mixed results on RottenTomatoes, with critics loving "Spy," whichgot a 94% "Certified Fresh" rating, but turning their noses up at "IdentityThief," which got a 19% rating. Meanwhile, "Spy" saw a loweropening-weekend gross and lower profit margins than "Identity Thief."

"The Boss" will comein as one of McCarthy's lowest rated films, with an 18% "rotten" scoreas of 2:45 p.m. ET on April 7.

Also hitting theaters during the April 8 weekend, STX Entertainmentwill deliver a cinematic take on the adventuring GoPro-style film culture. But thisis more than just college bros taking a base jumping lesson in Cancun; "HardcoreHenry" will be like a first-person, cranked-out version of James Bond thatDeadline calls an "in-your-face … tilta-whirl." The unique point of viewof the action film brings to mind first-person-shooter video games, and thereforethe studio is hoping to attract a young male audience, ostensibly those same aforementionedcollege bros.

While coming short of other action-adventure blockbusters, themore experimental "Hardcore Henry" is still expected to make some moneyfor its studio, which scooped up the title for $10 million and managed to reduceits exposure to $2 million through international sales, Variety reports. Variety forecastsan $8 million debut, and Deadline generally agrees, offering a range of $7 millionto $10 million. BoxOffice.com delivers an optimistic estimate of $10.2 million.

Similar high-adrenaline films like "Crank," "Lucy,""Hitman: Agent 47" and "The Transporter" achieved mixed resultsby the time they left theaters. The average opening weekend for a group of similartitles was $16.2 million, leading to average total revenue of $186.1 million andan average profit margin of 22.9%. But those positive figures include a whopping94.5% profit loss for the 2009 title "Gamer" and a 23.3% loss for "Hitman:Agent 47."

Critics are throwing "Hardcore Henry" mixed reviews,with some thrilled by the new take on filmmaking and others stumbling out of theatersa little dizzy. The film's rating was hovering around60% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 2:45 p.m. ET on April 7.

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