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‘The Batman’ Opening Box Office Won’t Top ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’: 3 Reasons Why That’s OK

"The Batman" will be huge, but history and other factors tell us that it won't beat Spider-Man's pandemic record.

The Batman

“The Batman”

Warner Bros.

The Batman” (Warner Bros.) starts off next Tuesday with single shows in 135 IMAX locations, all of which sold out in 15 minutes. By the end of its first weekend, Matt Reeves’ 175-minute reset of the D.C. Comics’ franchise starring Robert Pattinson should gross somewhere between $120 million-$200 million — well short of the $253 million opening for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

That’s not a knock on DC, Reeves, Pattinson, or even Batman. Some factors behind predicting “The Batman” performance:

Spider-Man: No Way Home

“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Both franchises are big, but “Spider-Man” has been bigger.

It’s not just “No Way Home.” Take it out of the picture, and the prior seven live-action films since 2001 that starred the character of Peter Parker averaged 13 percent more (inflation adjusted) than nine live-action D.C. Comics titles since 1989 that centered on the Caped Crusader.

Between these Spider-Man and Batman movies, six of the 16 titles amassed over $500 million in domestic gross. “No Way Home” leads with $775 million to date. “The Dark Knight” made $681 million,” the initial 2002 “Spider-Man” $646 million, the 1989 “Batman” $576 million, “Spider-Man 2” $550 million, and “The Dark Knight Rises” $527 million. (All grosses adjusted.)

With six titles among the top 75 domestic grosses (three titles for each franchise), that’s elevated turf. However, the eight Spider-Man titles have a total adjusted gross of $3.75 billion in the U.S./Canada. The nine films of the “Batman” franchise totals $3.4 billion — not including “The Batman,” of course.

“No Way Home” had a stronger wind at its back.

Sony benefits from its elevated coordination with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Within the “Spider-Man” world, “No Way Home” followed two films that each exceeded its immediate predecessor. In between there was the animated “Into the Spider-Verse,” which scored an unexpected $190 million.

D.C. Comics and Batman have been less consistent. “The Batman” comes six years after “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” which opened to $166 million but then only doubled that figure for its final domestic gross.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” followed three Disney-released Marvel titles. These had relatively muted responses, but they weren’t based on major-franchise characters. The latest “Spider-Man” benefited from fan-service anticipation in a way that “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and “Eternals” did not.

It also had Tom Holland, a proven draw as Spider-Man. Pattinson as “The Batman” is TBD. He lacks Holland’s light touch, but that’s consistent with the heavier tone of “Batman.” films.

Six years ago, “Batman v Superman” had a weak B Cinemascore, but maybe absence made the heart grow fonder. By comparison, recent “Spider-Man” releases were As and A+.

“The Batman” has several advantages “No Way Home” lacked.

“No Way Home” came after a 10-week period when six films opened over $40 million. The 10 weeks since them have seen only one with  “Uncharted” at $44 million.

If audiences are hungrier now than they were in December, that could give “The Batman” an edge. It also has a clearer field. It will have no wide release competition for two weeks after its release and no significant holdovers beyond “Uncharted.” Few blockbusters are graced with such favorable circumstances.

Omicron surged in December; we don’t know how much that hurt “Spider-Man.” Today, there’s less resistance to theaters and this will be the first blockbuster to open with a widespread perception that it is safe to return.

THE BATMAN, Paul Dano as The Riddler, 2022. ph: Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Batman”

Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Length is a minor factor.

“The Batman” is 27 minutes longer than “No Way Home.” That won’t be an issue for most theaters, where it will have maximum access to screens, seats, and showtimes. The length is an issue for premium plays like IMAX, which have smaller capacities and usually just one screen.

“Avengers: Endgame” was even longer, but it’s possible that audiences could grow weary from three hours with a dour superhero. It’s more of an issue for long-term grosses, not opening weekend.

Prognosis

Reviews are embargoed for “The Batman” until 9 a.m. PST on Monday, February 28, about 24 hours before the sold-out IMAX preview screenings begin. Strong advance reviews for “No Way Home” likely played a role in its huge start: $100 million was the guess until a week before its debut, and even then $150 million-$200 million was the high end of predictions.

That was an extreme case of over-performance, opening to nearly triple any Covid-era release. That makes the $166 million March 2016 start for “Batman v Superman” a legitimate baseline. That film had a strong ensemble cast with Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, and the unique appeal of their characters’ pairing. Figure those assets factored into its strong debut.

Opening lower would be no shame. Again, remember that other than “No Way Home” the best opening in the last two years was $90 million. For “The Batman,” $130 million is a conservative guess based on what is known now. If one needs to gamble, take the over.

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