The top box office story this weekend is the obvious one: “The Batman” (Warner Bros.) made an impressive $61 million in its second weekend at the multiplex, with only a 51 percent drop from its opening. Matt Reeves’ reboot of the D.C. Comics’ franchise is now at $238 million domestic, $463 million worldwide.
“The Batman” now looks like it could corral $400 million or more domestically. That would put it ahead of “Batman v Superman,” which opened better in 2016 but then collapsed (-69 percent second weekend) and totaled only $333 million (unadjusted). Credit positive reaction to the film for that, but also credit the new reality that the accepted norm is that more people see fewer movies.
Which brings us to the other big story, in which these “Batman” returns are only part of an interwoven set of results that all relate to the biggest issue theaters now face: The major titles are doing better than ever, but the lack of a wider flow of new product is resulting in a still challenging exhibition situation.
Case in point: this weekend’s total box office (for movies only, more on that to come) will come to $95 million. That compares to $211 million duding the same weekend in 2019 (the most recent comparison, given the COVID of it all). During that year, every single weekend between mid-February and the end of August grossed over $100 million, and with considerably lower average ticket prices.
That’s the context in which this weekend’s results, which otherwise might be spun as impressive, needs to be seen. Among these are the grosses for several holdovers, including films that have been playing since Christmas and overlapping with others that have home availability.
The five top ongoing films in the Top Ten all dropped less than 20 percent, three 10 percent or less. That is a tribute to their appeal of course, but also to the lack of alternatives. Consider it a positive that there remains an ongoing active audience searching out movies in theaters, even though that core group remains below what it was pre-COVID.
The caveat on the weekend totals comes from the live concert “BTS Permission to Dance on Stage — Seoul: Live Viewing” (Trafalagar). This was not a movie, but an event, with tickets going for $35. It grossed $6,840,000 in 803 U.S./Canada theaters on Saturday ($32.6 million worldwide). It’s a judgment call whether to list in among the grosses.
This isn’t a new issue. Live events — opera, Broadway shows, WWE matches, and others — regularly show in theaters. This record-setting one will clearly lead to similar interest in more non-film presentations in theaters. But theaters have always had revenues beyond movies — concessions, of course, but also in-house rentals for meetings, church services — and these aren’t reported. All of these affect the bottom line. But though they are important for theaters, they do little to enhance the health of movies other than the not-unimportant ability to sustain exhibition so they can survive for what has always been their core function.
If non-films were included, the Met Opera presentation of “Ariadne Auf Naxos” (Fathom), in 813 theaters, would rank #11 for the weekend with a one day gross of over $470,000. Even higher is “Radhe Shyam” (Alerion), with about $1.9 million in around 800 theaters, good for #6 among movies.
Look further afield in the top 20 titles, and the titles include many unrecognizable ones for even ardent cinephiles. Three more Indian releases placed. Also included are “Tyson’s Run,” a faith-based family film; “The Wolf and the Lion,” a Canadian-set children’s wilderness adventure; and “Au Revoir le Bonheur,” a Quebec-made French language film, all reached the $125,000 or higher threshold needed to place among the top grossing titles despite sub-500 theater runs.
Courtesy Everett Collection
The $95,000 total came to 45 percent of three years ago. The four-week running total, because of the huge impact of the opening for “The Batman,” is now at a higher than usual 78 percent. But expect that to fall in coming weeks closer to the 60-65 percent level that so far theaters haven’t been able to improve upon for any sustained period.
The traditional specialized world continues to be challenged. The three ongoing subtitled Oscar-nominated titles of note — “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon), “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics,” and “Drive My Car” (Janus) — all added to their $2 million or just above totals.
But new blood to replenish core theaters remains limited at best. Neon’s brand Super LTD opened “All My Friends Hate Me” to $37,000 in 27 theaters. That’s about as good as it gets these days, with real concern about what lies ahead as what has been a weak awards season for specialized theaters nears its end.
The Top Ten
1. The Batman (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$66,000,000 (-51%) in 4,417 (no change) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $14,942; Cumulative: $238,500,000
2. Uncharted (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$9,250,000 (-17%) in 3,725 (-150) theaters; PTA: $2,483; Cumulative: $113,256,000
3. Dog (United Artists) Week 4; Last weekend #3; also on PVOD
$5,347,000 (-13%) in 3,407 (-100) theaters; PTA: $1,569; Cumulative: $47,803,000
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony) Week 13; Last weekend #4
$4,075,000 (-10%) in 2,702 (-7) theaters; PTA: $1,508; Cumulative: $792,286,000
5. Death on the Nile (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #5
$2,500,000 (-9%) in 2,450 (-115) theaters; PTA: $1,020; Cumulative: $40,796,000
6. Radhe Shyam (Alerion) NEW
$(est.) 1,900,000 in 800 theaters; PTA: $2,375; Cumulative: $1,900,000
7. Sing 2 (Universal) Week 12; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD
$1,580,00 (-3%) in 1,988 (-38) theaters; PTA: $795; Cumulative: $155,285,000
8. Jackass Forever (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #7
$1,100,000 (-23%) in 1,627 (-354) theaters; PTA: $676; Cumulative: $56,281,000
9. Scream (Paramount) Week 9; Last weekend #10; also on VOD
$445,000 (-23%) in 664 (-189) theaters; PTA: $670; Cumulative: $80,905,000
10. Cyrano (United Artists) Week 3; Last weekend #8; also on PVOD
$390,548 (-42%) in 694 (-189) theaters; PTA: $563; Cumulative: $3,321,000
Additional specialized/limited/independent releases
All My Friends Hate Me (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Tribeca 2021
$37,188 in 27 theaters; PTA: $1,377
I Am Here (Blue Fox) NEW
$24,878 in 82 theaters; PTA: $303
The Automat (Slice of Pie) – Week 4
$8,532 in 4 (+2) theaters; Cumulative: $65,789
The Worst Person in the World (Neon) – Week 6
$195,500 in 228 (-36) theaters; Cumulative: $2,561,000
Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 12; also on PVOD
$37,221 in 47 (-5) theaters; Cumulative: $2,087,000
Nightmare Alley (Searchlight) Week 12; also streaming on HBO Max and Hulu
$16,000 in 280 (+115) theaters; Cumulative: $11,244,000
Drive My Car (Janus) Week 14; also on HBO Max
$71,557 in 102 (no change) theaters; Cumulative: $2,048,000
Licorice Pizza (United Artists) Week 15; also on PVOD
$178,271 in 416 (+205) theaters; Cumulative: $16,710,000
Belfast (Focus) Week 18; also on VOD
$90,000 in 591 (+68) theaters; Cumulative: $8,865,000