The journey to the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a crazy one, with years of fan campaigns, leaks, and teases from Snyder and the cast and crew, making it one of the most-tweeted-about movies of all time, but we still don’t have any indication of what HBO Max and WB think of its streaming performance. With other big HBO Max releases, like Wonder Woman 1984 or Godzilla vs. Kong, the streamer was celebrating the movie’s performance once the first weekend was over, with both of WW84 and GvK getting sequels started shortly afterward, but the only acknowledgment WB gave the Snyder Cut was an interview the Monday after release saying the Snyderverse wouldn’t continue.
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The Snyder Cut became a massive point of discussion because Zack Snyder had been replaced by Joss Whedon in order to bring the film more in line with the lighter and more comedic tone the studio wanted, so not only was the Snyder Cut contrary to the studio’s desired direction for the whole DCEU, but it also served as an opportunity to truly examine the studio’s decisionmaking during a time when a lot of things went wrong. Snyder’s previous two installments, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were both polarizing to say the least, so, while he had a strong core fanbase, there were plenty of people demanding the studio pivot (or swerve) away from Snyder’s approach, so some saw the reception of Zack Snyder’s Justice League as an opportunity for a sort referendum.
Unfortunately for anyone looking to point to it as an illustration of which approaches are more popular, HBO Max didn’t comment on its performance or how many subscribers it drew to the platform, blunting the ability of fans hoping to claim it shows the direction the studio should follow, particularly with finishing Snyder’s story out with Justice League 2 and 3. Some claimed the numbers were never released because the movie didn’t perform well, others say it did perform well and the studio wanted to hide it, but how are streaming numbers normally released and would a studio really bury a movie’s performance, even if it was good?
Streamers Rarely Release Actual Detailed Numbers
One of the biggest points of confusion when it comes to streaming numbers for most streaming platforms is actual numbers are almost never released. Unlike box office reporting, where the number of tickets sold is much more publically available data, streaming data is proprietary and only truly known by the streamer. As such, numbers are only released to highlight success, and even then it’s not always in context, rarely giving enough data to compare performance head-to-head against other movies on the platform, and especially not against movies on other platforms.
While Warner Bros. didn’t make any statements about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Netflix, by comparison, did tout the performance of Army of the Dead, saying it expected the film to become one of the most-watched Netflix original films ever, but Netflix doesn’t make it clear what they count as a single watch, what the completion rate is, how many minutes were watched, or many other bits of data relevant to truly compare viewership to other films (which similarly didn’t have that full spectrum of data provided).
For streamers, publication of performance metrics is really just an aspect of PR or marketing for a movie, or info provided to show good company health and appease shareholders. Outside of that, there’s no incentive to release more detailed information, especially if it enables a more apples-to-apples comparison to a competitor or reveals something about the content the platform doesn’t want to reinforce, which is a big factor of why HBO Max hasn’t publicized Zack Snyder’s Justice League numbers.
Warner Bros. Doesn’t Want to Continue the Snyderverse
Warner Bros. officially stated on the record there’s no plans or interest in continuing the story from Zack Snyder’s DC films. As such, since numbers are only used to bolster their image or set a narrative, no numbers were released. If the movie was a success, they don’t want to highlight the fact that they’re not pursuing a hot, successful property, and if it was a flop, they have no interest in broadcasting poor performance to shareholders, so instead, they just say nothing.
Aiding WB in the desire to minimize focus on the Snyder Cut’s performance, there were a number of other big releases around that time, such as Godzilla vs. Kong, so it’s not exactly clear what movie is responsible for any subscriber growth over that period, but by simply highlighting the success of Godzilla vs. Kong and other movies (and ignoring Zack Snyder’s Justice League), it was easy enough to infer the Snyder Cut’s performance wasn’t noteworthy enough. It allows them to tout HBO Max’s performance while only focusing on the franchises they want audiences to focus on, while simultaneously avoiding questions about why they’re not continuing the Snyderverse despite a (presumably) strong performance.
The Snyder Cut Was Big (We Just Don’t Know How Big)
Fortunately, there’s enough there’s In all the talk around the Snyder Cut, an expectation emerged that anything less than the biggest movie on HBO Max would be a failure, but the only thing clear from the data released by third party analytics is Zack Snyder’s Justice League was not an unquestionably dominant #1 hit, but it certainly wasn’t a flop, either. Unfortunately, as with first-party data from streamers, third-party data often has its own issues. For one, data can’t be gathered directly from streaming platforms by outside companies, so any data gathered will be using different methods and from separate sample groups and hard to compare or establish just how much Zack Snyder’s Justice League was viewed compared to other HBO Max movies.
While HBO Max hasn’t been very forthcoming and 3rd party data says it did well, in the same ballpark as other top movies on the platform, some other platforms have been open. Because HBO Max isn’t available internationally, it was carried by other streaming services in different countries, many of which proclaimed it the #1 hit on their platform, including Canada’s Crave platform and Austalia’s Binge platform. Additionally, multiple instances of the blu-ray pre-order shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list nearly as soon as pre-orders became available. None of these are metrics that are regularly tracked or reported across the industry, so it’s hard to know how this compares to most other films, but it’s more evidence it was a big hit.
Because of the high level of discussion and polarizing nature of the movie, Zack Snyder’s Justice League faced a sort of “if it’s not first it’s last” narrative, suggesting Warner Bros. didn’t want to report numbers because it wasn’t a clear #1 performer and didn’t convince them to do more, but CEO Ann Sarnoff’s release-weekend interview declaring there was no intent to continue after the Snyder Cut indicates the decision was made before there were even any numbers to look at. Warner Bros.’s decision not to report anything about the numbers is rooted entirely in their predetermination to move away from the Snyderverse and they wouldn’t have celebrated the movie if it performed well or not. Whether the choice to bury the movie and move on in a new(ish) direction pays off in the long term remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure, Snyder’s unfinished story will hang over other DC films for years to come.
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