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Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Return of the caped crusader brings new glimmer of hope

Lindsey Bahr

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Batman has his fair share of pressures, from saving Gotham to saving movie theatres. And while they’re both still decidedly works in progress, The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, managed to give a little glimmer of hope to both by grossing USD128.5 million in North America, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

The latest relaunch of the 80-year-old comic book character is well above Warner Bros’ conservative estimates going into the weekend, which had the film pegged for a debut in the USD90 million range. It’s the best opening of 2022 and the second best of the pandemic, though it’s more than USD100 million shy of Spider-Man: No Way Home’s still unbelievable USD260 million opening weekend in December.

The Batman opened this weekend exclusively in theatres in 4,217 locations on over 12,500 screens in North America. There were some fan events on last Tuesday and Wednesday leading into Thursday pre-shows in about 3,300 locations. All told, by the close of Friday, The Batman had already grossed USD57 million. No other major studio dared compete with their own new film.

Internationally, The Batman earned USD120 million, bringing its global total to USD248.5 million. Warner Bros halted its release in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that the company would monitor the situation as it evolves. Many major studios made similar decisions with their films.

Reviews have been largely positive for this new iteration of the caped crusader. Director Matt Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig set The Batman in Bruce Wayne’s second year of donning the cape. Corruption is rampant in Gotham and some well-known villains are not yet fully formed, but there’s a serial killer afoot and Pattinson’s Batman and Gordon, played by Jeffrey Wright, are on a mission to find the mysterious Riddler (Paul Dano).

This image released by Warner Bros Pictures shows Zoe Kravitz, left, and Robert Pattinson in a scene from ‘The Batman’. PHOTO: AP

It’s been a long road for The Batman to make it to theatres. The original plan was for it come out in June 2021, but that was pushed several times due in part to COVID-related production shutdowns.

The film cost around USD200 million to produce, not to mention the millions spent on marketing and distribution. And a lot is riding on The Batman with future films and an HBO Max spinoff series both planned.

As the Omicron variant surged in December, Warner Bros was faced once more with a hard decision: Delay the release further or commit to the March opening. Under the advice of epidemiologists, in January they decided to go forward and start spending significant money on marketing.

“We knew the movie was exceptional. We knew fans would embrace it. But we didn’t know what the pandemic would hold,” said Warner Bros’ president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein. “Theatre owners really stepped up and showed their showmanship … it was really a collective win.”

The Batman is also the first movie in over a year that Warner Bros has released exclusively in theatres. In 2021, the studio adopted a hybrid release strategy debuting films from Dune to Suicide Squad in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously, which may have helped streaming subscriptions, but not the box office or movie theatres.

“The box office is back with a vengeance,” said Comscore’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “This is a real turning point for the industry. The box office year has been moving in fits and starts. There have been some solid performances but no blockbuster breakout opener in 2022. This is great for movie theatres.”

So how does Pattinson’s stack up against his predecessors? It’s the fourth biggest opening for a Batman movie in North America. As far as lifetime profits, only time will tell, but Batman as a USD1 billion franchise is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Tim Burton’s Batman starring Michael Keaton and released in 1989, made around USD252 million in North America and just over USD400 million worldwide. None of the Batman movies crossed USD500 million worldwide until 2008. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale, broke the USD1 billion mark, which repeated with The Dark Knight Rises. The Ben Affleck/Zack Snyder era peaked with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which grossed USD873 million worldwide.


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