NEW YORK • Suicide Squad smashed records, scoring a colossal US$135.1-million (S$181.9-million) debut despite suffering some of the worst reviews of the year.
That sets a new highwater mark for an August launch, topping Disney's Guardians Of The Galaxy's US$94.3-million bow in 2014.
Suicide Squad also ranks as a new personal best for star Will Smith, trumping his I Am Legend's US$77.2-million debut in 2007.
The action spectacle earned an extra US$132 million overseas, bringing its global total to more than US$267 million.
"It bested anything we could have expected," said Mr Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros' distribution executive vice-president.
"The marketing campaign was brilliant and the performances by the cast, starting with Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto, were just extraordinary. They're fun and wicked and fans enjoy it."
Buzz on the film had built steadily since Warner released a teaser trailer at last year's Comic-Con. However, the studio was caught off-guard by the fusillade of withering reviews from critics.
New York Magazine's David Edelstein branded it "the worst of the worst" and MTV's Amy Nicholson dismissed the picture as "two hours of padding".
But audiences handed the film a B+ CinemaScore. The question is, will Suicide Squad show some endurance? Repeat business is typically the path to profitability for big-budget superhero movies.
Warner also ran into poor critical reception for this year's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, the first movie in a four-year rollout plan for DC characters. The film managed to overcome the bad notices to debut at US$166 million, but poor word-of-mouth caught up to it in its second weekend, pushing receipts down by nearly 70 per cent.
There are signs the hostile reviews are already hobbling Suicide Squad. The film's takings fell 41 per cent last Saturday from its numbers on Friday last week, although Friday's grosses also include Thursday's pre-show results.
Still, the Suicide Squad supervillains bested Jason Bourne, Universal's thriller series, which took second place with US$22.7 million in its second weekend.
Warner has a lot riding on Suicide Squad, which cost at least US$325 million to make and market. The studio is trying to develop an expanded universe of DC Comics heroes for the big screen, like Disney's successful efforts with Marvel. It needs more of its films to be beloved as well as financially successful.
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES