Superman Box Office

In a recent article where I tallied up all the film revenues (and losses) for super hero films, Superman came in at number 7 with an average inflation adjusted profit of $422 million per film (no thanks at all to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) and Batman came in at number 5 with an inflation adjusted profit of $704 million profit per film.  (This is counting international box office as well as video on demand and other revenue sources - click here for our full box office methodology.) 

But given the upcoming release of Batman v. Superman, we figured it was time to really go deep into the numbers.

01
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Superman 1 & 2

The first two Superman films were massively budgeted for their time, each costing $50 million dollars.  That's the equivalent today of a $200 million film.  Richard Donner's first Superman in 1979 was the dawn of the superhero film, and wouldn't be followed by another serious superhero film for almost 10 years until Tim Burton's Batman.  Both of these films were highly profitable, earning $300 and $100 million worldwide, which, when adjusted for inflation, makes the first Superman the equivalent of a billion dollar performer internationally (on par with The Dark Knight).

 

Superman

Global Box Office: $300.2 (Millions)

Global Additional Revenues (DVD & VOD & TV): $100 (Estimated)

Budget:  - $55 

Global Publicity & Marketing: - $15 (Estimated)

Cinema Take of Box Office: - $130 Million (Estimated)

Final Profit/Loss: $200 Million Profit

(This is 1979 dollars, which when adjusted for inflation, would be a billion dollars today!)

 

Superman II

Global Box Office: $108.2 (Millions)

Global Additional Revenues (DVD & VOD & TV): $100 (Estimated)

Budget:  - $54

Global Publicity & Marketing: - $20 (Estimated)

Cinema Take of Box Office: - $35 Million (Estimated)

Final Profit/Loss: $99.2 Million Profit

 

(The About.com calculations take in averages for television revenue and DVD and video on demand revenue for more recent films, but also factor in the cost of cinemas, marketing, and distribution.)

 

02
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Superman 3 & 4

The third and fourth Superman films are what happens when studio executives decide to kill a property.  Even though the previous two films made their money back, the studio decided that the third film could be made for much less, and the fourth just a fraction of the original cost (despite being made almost a decade later).  This, of course, completely reverses the growing trajectory of most film sequels.  Superman IV: The Quest for Peace had a budget of just $17 million - which is probably why the film looks like crap.

 

Superman III

Global Box Office: $75.8 (Millions)

Global Additional Revenues (DVD & VOD & TV): $10 (Estimated)

Budget: - $39 

Global Publicity & Marketing: - $10 (Estimated)

Cinema Take of Box Office: - $15 (Estimated)

Final Profit/Loss: $21.8 Million Profit

 

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Global Box Office: $19.3 (Millions)

Global Additional Revenues (DVD & VOD & TV): $4 (Estimated)

Budget:  - $17

Global Publicity & Marketing: - $5 (Estimated)

Cinema Take of Box Office: -$4 Million (Estimated)

Final Profit/Loss: - $2.7 Million Loss

03
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Superman Returns

Then in 2006, they attempted to remake Superman, pretending that only the first two films had existed, and that Superman III and IV hadn't (which keeps with a trend of ignoring the sequels you don't like!)   The film, although it earned a lot of money, didn't really have many fans, and it was so insanely expensive (and for the cost, it didn't return many big budget set pieces), that it's ultimate profit was marginal.

 

Superman Returns

Global Box Office: $391.1 (Millions)

Global Additional Revenues (DVD & VOD & TV): $356.1 (Estimated)

Budget:  - $270 

Global Publicity & Marketing: - $200 (Estimated)

Cinema Take of Box Office: $195 Million (Estimated)

Final Profit/Loss: $82 Million Profit

 

04
of 04

Man of Steel

This time, they re-made Superman from scratch, and re-did his origin story.  Despite the film being made almost a decade later, they still made it much cheaper than Superman Returns, and it had a lot of bang for its buck, you actually got to see cosmic sized destruction, which is really what you want in a Superman film.  It went on to become hugely profitable, but not yet quite profitable on the scale of The Dark Knight or The Avengers.

 

Man of Steel

Global Box Office: $662.8 (Millions)

Global Additional Revenues (DVD & VOD & TV): $714.8 (Estimated)

Budget:  - $225

Global Publicity & Marketing: - $200 (Estimated)

Cinema Take of Box Office: - $331 Million (Estimated)

Final Profit/Loss: $621.6 Million Profit

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Your Citation
Rico, Johnny. "Superman Box Office." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/superman-films-box-office-3878907. Rico, Johnny. (2017, March 7). Superman Box Office. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/superman-films-box-office-3878907 Rico, Johnny. "Superman Box Office." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/superman-films-box-office-3878907 (accessed November 22, 2017).