Warner Bros. DC film opened to a strong $259 million globally
After spending all of 2021 tinkering with its day-and-date HBO Max experiment, Warner Bros. has returned to theatrical exclusivity in a huge way with “The Batman,” which earned an impressive $134 million domestically during its opening weekend.
With $258 million already in the bank worldwide and strong word-of-mouth from critics and audiences, “The Batman” has a good chance to join “Spider-Man: No Way Home” as the second movie of the COVID era to gross over $1 billion worldwide on its reported $200 million budget.
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“The Batman” has already joined “No Way Home” as only the second $100 million-plus opening since the pandemic began, and the first non-Disney/Marvel blockbuster to cross that mark since “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” in June 2018. That’s a big start to 2022 for Warner Bros., which is pivoting to a Disney-esque strategy of releasing fewer films per year with a greater emphasis on franchises.
Here are some of the factors that could boost Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne to blockbuster status.
1. A clear runway in March
Between now and the release of “Morbius” on April 1, “The Batman” will be the only major film in theaters, giving it plenty of time to draw in the casual moviegoers that “The Suicide Squad,” for its own unique reasons, couldn’t bring in last year.
“The Batman” will also benefit from the absence of Disney/Pixar’s “Turning Red” from most countries after it became a Disney+ exclusive. While the animated family film is aimed at a demographic far different from that of this bleak, violent DC film, it’s one less film that could peel away theatrical ticket sales from single millennials.
2. More time for older moviegoers to catch up
That clearer runway could help “The Batman” leg out since the opening weekend demographics fit into the same trend that has been playing out for a year: For a tentpole to be successful in this COVID era, you have to win over Gen Z and millennials, especially male ones.
Opening weekend data showed that 78% of the audience for “The Batman” was under the age of 35, and approximately 60% were male. Even though there have been “Batman” films for decades — this film is the ninth since Tim Burton’s “Batman” came out in 1989 — any devotion for the Dark Knight that those films have built in older moviegoers didn’t sway the early crowd away from the youth-heavy tilt that blockbusters from “Godzilla vs. Kong” to “No Way Home” showed all last year.
Traditionally, audience turnout for blockbusters gradually gets older in the later weeks of their theatrical run. With moviegoers over 35 largely staying home over the past year due to COVID-19 concerns, that hasn’t happened as much. But with the Omicron surge largely subsided and most states relaxing or lifting COVID-19 safety rules, we could see more Gen Xers and older millennials who grew up with Michael Keaton’s Batman movies or Christopher Nolan’s 2005-2012 trilogy showing up to see Matt Reeves’ take on Gotham’s protector.
3. Audiences (and critics) like the film
Unlike “Batman v Superman — Dawn of Justice,” which was met with tepid reception in 2016 and saw its numbers drop hard after opening weekend, “The Batman” should have strong legs throughout March with excellent critical and audience reviews.
Matt Reeves’ film has Rotten Tomatoes scores of 85% for critics and 90% for audiences to go with an A- on CinemaScore and a 4.5/5 overall rating on Postrak.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” showed the power a blockbuster can have at the box office when it wins over the hearts and minds of audiences, even during a pandemic. Though “The Batman” didn’t have a big crossover with past Bruce Waynes — that’s for another DC film — it now has a fervent following that could bring in non-Batlovers the way Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy did.
Granted, good word-of-mouth isn’t always enough. Five years ago, Warner Bros.’ critically acclaimed “Wonder Woman” became the third-highest grossing film in North America in 2017 with $412 million. But while it was still a hit, Patty Jenkins’ film fell short of $1 billion as overseas grosses failed to match those seen for “Batman” films like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
But when Warner and DC put out a dark, gritty film set in Gotham City, audiences worldwide have shown they will turn out. Just look at “Joker,” the first R-rated film ever to cross $1 billion with $738 million grossed overseas without the help of China.
4. Global appeal
Speaking of China, “The Batman” will get a release there on March 18 after many Hollywood blockbusters were denied by the country’s film board last year. While DC films have never made as much in China as their Marvel counterparts — “Batman v Superman” grossed just $95 million there — it’s another major market that will boost overseas numbers in the second half of the month.
Globally, “The Batman” is off to a strong start on the road to $1 billion. The U.K. was the top overseas market with $18.4 million, followed by Mexico with $12 million and Australia with $9.2 million. The film will be released in Japan this Friday and roll out additional markets in coming weeks.