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May 21, 2022
Box Office: ‘The Batman’ Superhero Fatigues To Mighty $57 Million Friday
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Box Office: ‘The Batman’ Superhero Fatigues To Mighty $57 Million Friday

Robert Pattinson in ‘The Batman’

Warner Bros.

Let’s hope that we haven’t gone from absurd allegations of “superhero fatigue” in 2015 to a domestic box office that is entirely dependent on superhero movies… – grimly prophetic words from my Captain Marvel Friday report three years ago this weekend.

The Batman (review) began its domestic box office run yesterday with $57 million on Friday. That includes $21.6 million in pre-release earnings (most from Thursday but also including Tuesday and Wednesday night sneak previews) and gives the film a “just Friday” gross of $35.6 million. The high(er) percentage of the Friday gross made up by preview earnings (38%) is closer to The Dark Knight Rises ($30.5 million Thursday/$77 million Friday in 2012) than Wonder Woman ($11 million/$38 million in 2017). All of this merely means that I’d expect a weekend multiplier between 2x (like Batman v Superman) and 2.3x (like Man of Steel), or a debut frame between $116 million and $133 million. Either result would be terrific, and that there is any need to explain this is merely due to overblown online expectations that saw The Batman as the next Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Look, no spoilers, but The Batman is not the next kid-friendly chapter in an ongoing cinematic universe which climaxes with Robert Pattinson’s Batman getting an interdimensional assist from Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Christian Bale. Warner Bros.’ $180 million, three-hour, grimdark reboot of their Dark Knight saga is going to open with a Fri-Sun launch on par with reboots of Spider-Man (Spider-Man: Homecoming with $117 million in 2017), Superman (Man of Steel with $128 million in 2013) and, uh, Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man grossed $137 million in six days back in summer 2012) and Batman (Batman Begins opened with $72 million over five days in summer 2005). Not only is this a fresh start for the Caped Crusader, but it’s also not even associated with the ongoing DC Films continuity, existing as an outlier like Joker (a $96 million debut in 2019).

I have been hammering this home for the last year or so, but The Batman features characters we’ve already seen in the movies (Catwoman, Riddler and Penguin) played by known-but-not-bankable actors (Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano and Colin Farrell) in a film entirely predicated on “It’s another Batman movie!” It is closer in spirit to Batman Begins (“It’s another Batman movie which looks a lot better than Batman & Robin!”) than Batman (“It’s the first big-budget Batman movie, it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen and Jack Nicholson is the Joker!”) or Batman Forever (“Your kids won’t cry, and we’ve got Jim Carrey as The Riddler!”). Heck, even Batman v Superman had a bankable star (Ben Affleck) as Batman and the first-ever live-action team-up between DC’s two biggest icons. This film was (truthfully and successfully) sold as “Hey, it’s another Batman relaunch, and it’s even grimmer than The Dark Knight!”

We are also dealing with a film that has thus-far earned mostly positive reviews (85% fresh with a 7.7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A- from Cinemascore. If the three-hour runtime is an issue over the short-term, well The Batman is quite literally the only game in town for the next three weeks. With Disney foolishly/shortsightedly shifting Turning Red to Disney+ and STX delaying Operation Fortune until (hopefully) later this year, the field is wide open for The Batman. The only real obstacle is an AT&T boss who couldn’t stop from bragging about how quickly the film might arrive on HBO Max. Even if the film is only as leggy as Man of Steel ($291 million from that $128 million debut), this is a cheaper film and I’d argue (perhaps unfairly) grosses on par with Zack Snyder’s $225 million-budgeted Superman reboot are solid on a Covid curve.

This is, for the moment, a needed triumph for Warner Bros. The Batman marks A) their first theatrically exclusive release since Tenet in summer 2020 and B) their first $100 million-plus opening since It ($123 million) in September 2017. It’s also a nice boost for Pattinson, a sign that, like Tom Hardy and Tom Holland, he’s a “star” when playing a cast-to-type marquee character. That The Batman might only open closer to Spider-Man: Homecoming than Spider-Man 3 ($151 million in 2007) is no tragedy and is frankly what we were always looking at as a safe comparison. That Matt Reeves’ grim and somber detective drama was viewed in some circles as the next mega-ton theatrical savior is an example of online discourse contrasting with real-world interest. Where it goes from here is a riddle, but this is a rock-solid and super heroic opening day.

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