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Strong Gross for ‘The Batman’ Shows Audiences Excited by Smart Reimagining of the Familiar

What theaters need to recover fully is more signs they are as welcoming to original titles.

"The Batman"

“The Batman”

Warner Bros

The Batman” (Warner Bros.) delivered the goods with an excellent $128,500,000 domestic opening, $248,500,000 worldwide. That makes it nearly three times better than any previous 2022 debut and the second best since 2019.

It’s a big victory for theaters for multiple reasons. Perhaps most importantly, as Warner Bros.’s first release of the year, it returns them to theater-exclusive openings after more than a year of initially streaming on HBO Max as well.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Batman v Superman,” two comparisons to “The Batman,” set unreasonably high marks for similar releases. The former opened to just over double ($260 million), while the most recent D.C. Comic mainstay character release in 2016 debuted at $166 million.

This is somewhere between an apples to apples and apples to oranges situation. Again, $128.5 million is terrific. And more so in a period where clearly fewer people are attending theaters.

As a reboot, it lacked some of the momentum that these other two titles had. Both of them, particularly “Spider-Man,” were helped by good will from the previous franchise title, while “B v S” was boosted by its Easter weekend start (with Friday a holiday for many), despite being poorly received.

But “The Batman” also had some standalone assets. It opened after more than two months without a blockbuster. “Spider-Man” came at a time with less pent-up demand after a strong fall. “B v S” followed massive recent openers “Zootopia” and “Deadpool.”

“The Batman” sold 30 percent of its tickets on premium screens, and it overall benefits from significantly higher prices than “B v S,” even somewhat higher than those last December. None of this is meant to diminish the excellent figure.

The context is critical because the demands on it to provide results is intense. Only one other film this month is likely to open to over $20 million (“The Lost City”/Paramount), with “The Batman” to provide the majority of the March gross. Certainly it has given it a great smart. The $156 million total for the weekend (82 percent from “The Batman”) is a third better than the same weekend in 2019.

This boosted the ongoing four week rolling comparison to the same period three years ago to 75 percent. That will mark a high point for a while — next week will face off against “Captain Marvel,” which in 2019 opened at $153 million.

The best news for “The Batman” is what appears to be a positive first reaction. Its “A-” Cinemascore bests the weak “B” grade for “B v S.” This shows up in the Saturday versus Friday plus preview gross drop. This time the fall was 24 percent compared to 38 percent in 2016. That bodes well that it could top $300 million, more so with the clear field ahead this month.

What this opening reasserts is that top-flight high expense (the budget premarketing here a reported $200 million) is the best way to ensure a big gross. But at the same time, the disparity between this type of blockbuster and all movies, and the gap of time between similar titles, along with few mid-level successes at the same time, remains a major issue for theaters.

Fortunately the rest of the year looks to provide several other titles opening over $100 million. But these need backup. Theaters are of a pace this year to struggle to gross 75 percent as much as 2019. A 25 percent drop in business (the projected result; at this point it is barely above 50 percent for 2022 so far) is enough to sustain theaters, but not a sign of a healthy business.

Despite top-flight competition, holdovers did well overall. “Spider-Man” fell only 24 percent on its way to an over $800 million domestic total. The third weekend of “Dog” (United Artists) dropped 41 percent to reach $40 million. “Uncharted” (Sony) reached $100 million, in second spot, down 52 percent.

The three decently performing subtitled films in Oscar contention — “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon), “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics), and “Drive My Car” (Janus) — all are at or about $2 million. These titles stand out in the still weak specialized field. All but “Worst” are available at home now, as is “After Yang” (A24), Kogonada’s acclaimed film with Colin Farrell’s second role opening this week.

A24 reports the 24 theaters playing ‘After Yang’ took in $47,000. That suggests nearly all of its viewing will not be in theaters.

The Top Ten

1. The Batman (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 72; Est. budget: $200 million

$128,500,000 in 4,417 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $29,092; Cumulative: $128,500,000

2. Uncharted (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$11,000,000 (-52%) in 3,875 (-400) theaters; PTA: $2,839; Cumulative: $100,276,000

3. Dog (United Artists) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$6,000,000 (-41%) in 3,507 (-320) theaters; PTA: $1,711; Cumulative: $40,007,000

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony) Week 12; Last weekend #3

$4,400,000 (-24%) in 2,709 (-293) theaters; PTA: $1,624; Cumulative: $786,448,000

5. Death on the Nile (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #4

$2,727,000 (-41%) in 2,565 (-855) theaters; PTA: $1,063; Cumulative: $37,095,000

6. Sing 2 (Universal) Week 11; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD

$1,520,000 (-32%) in 2,026 (-356) theaters; PTA: $750; Cumulative: $153,569,000

7. Jackass Forever (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #5

$1,360,000 (-57%) in 1,981 (-932) theaters; PTA: $687; Cumulative: $54,452,000

8. Cyrano (United Artists) Week 2; Last weekend #9

$682,607 (-51%) in 797 (no change) theaters; PTA: $856; Cumulative: $2,575,000

9. Scream (Paramount) Week 8; Last weekend #10; also on PVOD

$570,000 (-57%)  in 853 (-713) theaters; PTA: $668; Cumulative: $80,226,000

10. Gangubai Kathiawadi (Hamsin) Week 2; Last weekend #12

$(est.) 590,000 (-41%) in 280 (-205) theaters; PTA: $2,107; Cumulative: $(est.) 1,698,000

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases 

After Yang (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Cannes 2021, Sundance 2022; also on Showtime

$46,872 in 24 theaters; PTA: $1,953

Huda’s Salon (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Toronto 2021; also on VOD

$8,000 in 30 theaters; PTA: $267

Great Freedom (Mubi) NEW – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Cannes 2021

$8,814 in 1 theater; PTA: $8,814

Adventures in Success (Utopia) NEW – Festivals include: Cinequest 2021

$3,437 in 3 theaters; PTA: $1,155

The Automat (Slice of Pie) –  Week 3

$6,562 in 2 (-1) theaters; Cumulative: $54,285

The Worst Person in the World (Neon) – Week 5

$210,000 in 264 (-290) theaters;  Cumulative: $2,224,000

Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11; also on PVOD  83

$43,833 in 52 (-31)  theaters; Cumulative: $1,995,000

Nightmare Alley (Searchlight) Week 11; also streaming on HBO Max and Hulu

$19,000 in 165 (-100) theaters; Cumulative: $11,218,000

Drive My Car (Janus) Week 13; also on HBO Max

$75,645 in 102 (-60) theaters; Cumulative: $1,962,000

Licorice Pizza (United Artists) Week 14

$152,548 in 211 (-396) theaters; Cumulative: $16,443,000

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