Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice has shrugged off its terrible reviews from the critics to debut with a massive $170.1 million (£120.3m) in America, the sixth best opening of all-time.
The Warner Bros release, which cost $250 million (£176m) to make, has a great deal riding on it. The stakes are high as the studio hopes to launch a DC Comics empire to rival Marvel’s successes.
The film did not have the easiest of rides: The release date had to be changed and there was an outcry from fans over the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman.
However, the Oscar-winner is having the last laugh as his performance has garnered praise from both aficionados and film critics.
The thought of seeing two of the most iconic superheroes battle it out on the big screen was enough to set a record for the best pre-summer debut in the US. Batman v Superman also grossed $254 million (£179m) in the international market, bringing its global total to $424.1 million (£300m) for the weekend.
Directed by Zack Snyder, this is the first of 10 DC Comics adaptations planned by Warner Bros over the next five years.
Along with pitting Henry Cavill’s Superman against Batman, it introduces a number of other heroes soon to get starring roles, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and The Flash (Ezra Miller).
“There was a disconnect there between what critics wrote and the fan interest,” said Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution for Warner Bros. “What we’re seeing is a huge amount of repeat business.”
The superhero epic opened well above the $116.6 million (£82.4m) debut of Superman reboot Man Of Steel. The opening also surpasses previous Batman movies The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million/£113.8m) and The Dark Knight ($158.4 million/£112m).
“It proves that the concept is bigger than negative reviews,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “There was no way that if you’re a comic book fan or just a movie fan that you’re going to miss out on a match-up of such iconic characters. Audiences have to see the movie for themselves.”
Warner Bros will hope the success continues for the all-villain Suicide Squad, which is due out in August.
Elsewhere, Disney Animation hit Zootopia made $23.1 million (£16.3m) in its fourth week of release stateside. The film has earned nearly $700 million (£495m) globally.
Universal’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, a sequel to the 2002 hit romantic comedy, debuted with $18.1 million (£12.8m) – a very decent return considering it was up against Batman v Superman.