Aquaman is the latest installment of the DC Extended Universe and Warner Bros.' big blockbuster of the holiday season, but how much did it cost to make? Anyone who's been following the franchise since its inception in 2013's Man of Steel knows that it's been a very bumpy ride for the property. In the beginning, mixed critical and audience receptions were offset by strong box office performances, but things eventually caught up with WB on Justice League. The hype and anticipation for DC's first team-up movie was dampened by largely negative responses, and the film ended up as the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise.
The DCEU should experience wholesale changes in the future, with WB overhauling the behind-the-scenes team, stars Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck reportedly out, and an increased focus on standalone movies that have limited connections to the larger shared universe. Aquaman emerged unscathed following the Justice League disaster, as it was already well into development by the time the crossover hit theaters. So, there's a fair amount of pressure on it to deliver and establish some forward momentum DC can build on. It would be great if Aquaman proved to be a hit, and it's in a great position to succeed thanks to its budget.
Aquaman's production costs came in at around $160 million, which is the second-lowest budget in the DCEU (behind only Wonder Woman's $150 million) and considerably smaller than most of the franchise's other installments. Justice League, which underwent substantial reshoots, sported a cool $300 million for its budget; Man of Steel cost $225 million; and Batman V Superman was $250 million. David Ayer's Suicide Squad was in the rough neighborhood of Aquaman at $175 million.
Thanks to the international box office (China, in particular), Aquaman has already cleared this figure and is well on its way to turning a profit for WB. The film is already at $266.4 million globally, meaning it needs to earn just $53.6 million more (approximately) to break even. It should well surpass that in the coming days, seeing that it's projected to earn $120 million domestically over the course of the extended Christmas weekend. Aquaman is facing a ton of competition including holdover Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and newcomers Mary Poppins Returns and Bumblebee, but it looks like it's the leader in the clubhouse right now and will be one of the biggest hits of the holiday season.
All in all, this is a nice rebound for the DCEU. Aquaman received generally positive reviews and is a smash hit at the box office. No sequel has been green lit yet, but discussions have reportedly happened, and it now seems like a foregone conclusion Arthur Curry will be back for a followup at some point. Perhaps this is the dawn of a new era in the DCEU and things will continue to trend upwards as the calendar flips to 2019.