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The Caped Crusader is back.
The Batman — starring Robert Pattinson in his first turn as the brooding crime fighter — flew to a huge $134 million in its domestic box office debut to secure the second-best opening of the pandemic era behind 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s also director Matt Reeves’ biggest opening to date and only the second picture since December 2019 to cross $100 million at the box office in its first frame.
On Sunday, the opening was an estimated $128.5 million, but traffic for the day was much better than expected, pushing the final weekend number higher.
Overseas, the $200 million tentpole opened to an estimated $124 million from 75 markets for a worldwide start of $258 million. Like the domestic number, the final international number came in higher than Sunday’s estimate.
The Batman’s early performance is all the more impressive considering it runs nearly three hours and is on the darker side. Nor was Reeves’ vision for the superhero a sure bet. It’s safe to say the pic’s strong opening launches a new Batman franchise for Warner Bros. and DC at a critical juncture for legacy Hollywood studios, who are growing ever more reliant on mega-tentpoles and known IP. (Also, Warners is on the brink of having a new owner, Discovery.)
Reeves was the first person Toby Emmerich hired to helm a superhero pic when Emmerich took over as president of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures (Joker and Suicide Squad were already in the works).
“You have to buy into the idea that Batman is like Hamlet. He’s such a rich character. And that the only reason to do it is if you find a different swim lane and a Batman that’s true to the DNA, but is a different interpretation,” Emmerich says. “From the very beginning, Matt consciously made sure that the character and the story he was telling was different than anyone that had been told before.”
The Batman’s opening cements the supremacy of the superhero genre at a time when many genres are struggling on the big screen. Younger males — who have so far fueled the fragile box office recovery — turned out in force. More than 65 percent of ticket buyers were male, while more than 60 percent of the audience was between ages 18 and 34.
The arrival of the Warner Bros. and DC blockbuster couldn’t have come sooner for theater owners following a slow January and February in terms of Hollywood tentpoles.
The PG-13 film centers on Bruce Wayne’s earlier days of fighting crime and features a rogues’ gallery of Batman antagonists. Paul Dano plays the Riddler, a serial killer pursued by Batman, while Zoë Kravitz plays Catwoman and Colin Farrell appears as the Penguin.
Friday’s $57 million haul for The Batman included $21.6 million in Thursday previews and fan screenings in Imax theaters on Tuesday and Wednesday. Like other superhero pics, it is doing substantial business on Imax and other premium, large-format screens, which represent 30 percent of all business. Imax alone turned in $22.3 million globally, including more than $12 million in North America.
Higher ticket prices at some cinemas didn’t seem to deter consumers. The world’s largest exhibitor, AMC Entertainment, is using the movie as a chance to experiment with variable pricing in the U.S. and charge anywhere from $1 to $1.50 more for a ticket. That’s for regular digital screenings; the upcharge for showings on AMC-operated Imax and PLF screens is likely more.
Overseas, The Batman opened in most markets across the globe, although its release in Russia was scrubbed at the eleventh hour because of the invasion of Ukraine. It doesn’t release in China until March 14.
The Batman has been well received by critics and earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences, as well as strong PostTrack exit scores.
According to EntTelligence, Batman commanded more than 80 percent of all tickets sold on Friday, with 22 percent of the audience opting to see it in a premium format. For the overall weekend, eight out of 10 moviegoers in North America opted to see the movie, while 23 percent choose premium formats.
March 5, 10:50 a.m. Updated with international grosses.
March 6, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend grosses.
March 7, 7:50 a.m. Updated with revised weekend grosses.
March 7, 8:45 a.m. Updated with revised weekend grosses.
This story was originally published on March 5, 2022, at 7:57 a.m.
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