Back to IndieWire

‘The Batman’ Previews Were Half of ‘Spider-Man,’ but It Will Gross More than All Other March Films Combined

If they can get away with it, AMC raising prices for this and other big films makes sense. But unintended consequences abound.

The Batman

“The Batman”

Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Batman” (Warner Bros.) grossed $21.6 million in initial previews Tuesday through Thursday in U.S./Canadian theaters. By comparison, “Batman v Superman” in 2016 grossed $27.7 million for for its Thursday shows, with fewer shows and later starting time, while “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony) grossed $50 million in previews last December.

That positions Matt Reeves’ latest rendition of the Caped Crusader for a U.S./Canada opening over $100 million, with a chance to reach half of the staggering $260 million achieved by “Spider-Man.”

This year has been a box-office disaster even with “Spider-Man.” The first two months grossed only $755 million, about 50 percent of the same periods in 2019 and 2020. Beyond “The Batman” — which should provide as much as $300 million this month — March won’t have much to say for itself. With Pixar’s already-acclaimed “Turning Red” opening on Disney+ exclusively March 11 and few wide studio releases, this month reflects the weakest release schedule in a year.

Mei Lee

“Turning Red”


With all other new films, March will struggle to gross a combined $500 million. The last viable comparable March, in 2019, grossed $963 million. Only one other title, Paramount’s “The Lost City,” is likely to open over $20 million. The action comedy with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum opens on March 28, so only a portion of its total run will apply to the month.

On March 18, Sony has “Umma,” a low-budget horror film and A24 opens “X” wide. Ti West’s slasher film set in 1979 is about an adult movie shoot in rural Texas that goes bad when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act. The same day, Focus will have a multi-hundred theater release of “The Outfit,” starring Mark Rylance as a Chicago tailor to the mob who is forced into a deadly game.

One or more of these could do business that brings good returns for their studios, but they could easily bring in less than $50 million combined during the month. Other holdovers, led by “Uncharted” (Sony), should add no more than $100 million.

Theatrical grosses increasingly break down to a blockbuster-driven dichotomy that provides huge grosses for the most want-to-see franchises and far less for everything else. How well has this worked out for theaters? Grosses down by half.

That feast-or-famine disparity explains why AMC announced “variable pricing,” starting with “The Batman.” All AMC theaters have steadily increased prices since reopening; now they are as high as $28.99 in Manhattan for premium-presentation shows (add a $2.49 “convenience charge” if you buy online).

At AMC’s  suburban Chicago Crestwood 18, premium screenings of “The Batman” cost $18.99 at the door; standard ones, $13.99. That’s a dollar more than other films. Pre-Covid, it was rare to see major cities outside New York and Los Angeles charge more than $11.

Younger audiences flock to the biggest movies and it’s a good bet they are willing to pay more to see them, but it will also increase the gap between these movies and everything else. The result could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Studios concentrate on event filmmaking and leave the rest to streaming.

Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2021 3/5/21 Movie Theaters in New York City reopened today at 25%, capacity after months of being closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

An AMC location in NYC


Dynamic pricing places a big bet that in the long term these films can make up for what others lack. It also means the theaters’ share of revenue could grow, providing a better negotiating position with studios and making them more attractive for investors and landlords.

It also runs the risk of scaring off other customers whose takeaway may be that movie tickets are insanely expensive. Although unconfirmed, “The Batman” is expected to be free for HBO Max customers after 45 days. The cost of two movie tickets could pay for two months of the streaming service, which also includes “West Side Story,” “Drive My Car,” “Free Guy,” and much more.

In this week’s quarterly earnings call, AMC CEO Adam Aron touted an improved fourth-quarter 2021 that showed a smaller loss and credited gimmicks like NFT sales, Bitcoin use, and AMC popcorn off-site sales.

Near the end of the call, he asked that investors not hold his feet to the fire with first-quarter 2022 financials. He was right to warn people — they will not be good. No one raised any questions about the potential damage in betting their future on a small number of titles. So far, it’s a losing strategy.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox