“The Batman” grossed $128.5 million in theaters in the United States and Canada over the weekend, showcasing the stamina of one of Hollywood’s most overworked superheroes and marking the end – theater owners hope – of studio experimentation with film release templates.
“It’s a great opening,” said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a subscription newsletter on box office numbers. “Keeping these series fresh – moving characters forward, maintaining storytelling quality, adding new worlds, new antagonists, new settings – is as difficult as any creative challenge in the business.”
The first Batman feature film arrived in 1966. “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz and directed by Matt Reeves, is the 14th installment in the Batman universe, featuring animated entries. It’s supposed to spawn several sequels and spinoffs, including a series for the HBO Max streaming service that focuses on the villainous Penguin, now played by Colin Farrell.
By successfully rolling out “The Batman,” which received positive reviews, senior Warner Bros. executives, including Toby Emmerich, chairman, and Walter Hamada, chairman of DC Films, reinforced their position at a crucial time: Warner Bros. about to be taken over by Discovery Communications. Warner’s recent film slate has included clunkers like ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ and ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’.
Overseas, “The Batman,” which is nearly three hours long, raked in an additional $120 million from 30,559 screens in 74 markets, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data.
The many different versions of Batman
The hero’s incarnations have oscillated between campy and dignified in various mediums over the years.
At the domestic box office, “The Batman” benefited from an unorthodox pricing decision by AMC Entertainment, the No. 1 movie channel, and some competitors. Contrary to usual practice, they charged about $1 more for standard “Batman” tickets than for other movies showing in the same theaters at the same time. Cinemas have long wanted to move towards this practice, known as variable pricing, based on basic supply and demand. But they fear scaring away price-sensitive customers.
(“Eventually, there will be a price gap,” director Steven Spielberg predicted at a Future of Cinema event in 2013. “You’re going to have to pay $25 to see the next ‘Iron Man.’ you’ll probably only have to pay $7 to see “Lincoln”.”)
‘The Batman,’ which cost an estimated $200 million to make, not including marketing costs, marks a return to exclusive theatrical distribution by Warner, which has spent the past year releasing films simultaneously in theaters. and on HBO Max. The studio said the coronavirus pandemic was the reason for the controversial policy; it was designed as much to boost HBO Max, which was struggling at the time. Going forward, Warner has pledged to release its biggest movies — including four more superhero films in the coming months — with an old-fashioned 45-day “window” for an exclusive play.
For the next two weeks, Hollywood’s theatrical release schedule remains sparse. After that, a steady stream of big-budget movies should start hitting theaters for the first time in two years. “The Lost City” (Paramount), with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, is scheduled for March 25, along with “Morbius” (Sony), “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Paramount), “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (Warner) and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (Disney) should follow.
Adam Aron, AMC’s colorful chief executive, told analysts on a quarterly conference call last week that cinema was finally poised to rebound from the pandemic and cited these and other theatrical exclusives as evidence.
“There’s so much conventional wisdom floating around that movie theaters can’t coexist and can’t thrive in a streaming world,” he said. “What a load of cow dung.”