Holy ticket sales, Batman! Robert Pattinson’s pitch-black superhero adventure The Batman collected a mighty US$128.5 million (S$175 million) in its box office debut, marking the best opening weekend of 2022 by a landslide. But what is more impressive: It’s only the second pandemic-era movie to cross the US$100 million mark in a single weekend, a feat first achieved by Spider-Man: No Way Home, which launched last December to a historic US$260 million.
Thanks to positive reviews, strong reception from ticket buyers and high levels of intrigue to see Pattinson’s moody take on the Caped Crusader, The Batman is shaping up to be a commercial winner for Warner Bros. That’s good news because the studio shelled out a hefty US$200 million to produce the film and spent many millions more in marking and distribution costs. Bringing Batman to the big screen doesn’t come cheap, and achieving profitability won’t be easy.
The Batman also likely benefitted because the comic book adaptation is playing exclusively in theatres. For Warner Bros, which opted to debut its entire 2021 theatrical film slate simultaneously on HBO Max, The Batman marks a deviation as the studio’s first movie in over a year that’s only available to watch in cinemas. The Batman lands on HBO Max in the US in 45 days.
It’s impossible to know the box office impact of putting movies day-and-date on streaming, but The Batman has generated more money in its opening weekend than any other Warner Bros pandemic movies grossed in their entire theatrical runs. Prior to The Batman, the studio’s highest grossing movies since March 2020 were Godzilla Vs Kong (US$100 million in North America) and Dune (US$109 million in North America).
Of course, it helps that The Batman has the glittery promise of a former Twilight heartthrob playing one of the most famous comic book characters in history. But there were plenty of factors that could have worked against a different, less-embraced version of The Batman. For one, it clocks in at three hours, which is a long sit for even the biggest movie-lover. Not to mention, the logistics of its lengthy running time meant that theatre operators had to limit the number of screenings per day.
Since The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, notched a PG-13 rating rather than R, the film was able to capture the key demographic of younger males, who have been fuelling the North American box office’s wobbly recovery.
In addition to Pattinson, The Batman stars Paul Dano as the Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Andy Serkis as Batman’s butler Alfred Pennyworth, and Colin Farrell as a crime lord known as Penguin. By focusing on Bruce Wayne’s alter ego as “the world’s greatest detective”, the movie feels more like a gritty noir than an escapist superhero adventure. Reviews seemed to be fond of that approach, since The Batman has been praised for feeling notably distinct from past adventures centered on Gotham’s ferocious defender, like director Christopher Nolan’s revered The Dark Knight trilogy or Ben Affleck’s brooding, middle-aged take on the character in Batman V Superman.