With just six days until The Batman’s streaming premiere, director Matt Reeves’ blockbuster superhero reboot starring Robert Pattinson is still going strong at the global box office. Last weekend pumped $13+ million into the tank, raising the total box office to $736+ million, guaranteeing The Batman will finish its run by topping $750 million, despite debuting on HBO Max next week.
The Batman remained in the top-five grossing films domestically over the weekend, while dropping to number six on the international charts. These are excellent holds six weeks into the film’s theatrical release, and international markets are especially likely to continue seeing decent ticket sales even after The Batman premiers on the streaming service, in part because HBO Max isn’t available in all markets and in part because it’s simply that great (read my full review of The Batman here).
The Covid pandemic clearly suppressed The Batman’s box office in China, and probably had some negative effects on ticket sales in certain other territories, but most of the theatrical run has been during a pandemic decline and troff, so the release timing was about as perfect as it could’ve been, even without better results from China.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore hit theaters in several international markets the past weekend for $58 million, ahead of its wide release this coming weekend. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had a tremendous opening weekend domestically at $72 million, and has now passed $145+ million worldwide (with two weekends of release overseas). Morbius meanwhile is dropping so fast it will struggle to get much beyond $150 million range.
With only a couple of films with much draw on The Batman’s target demographics, so it won’t see any significant changes to the landscape before it finishes the main portion its theatrical run. I anticipate a final cume between $755-760 million.
As I’ve previously explained, this outcome is an absolute success for The Batman, even if the same or higher box office results for other films were considered less of a successful outcome or even outright underperformance.
The first and most obvious big difference is, we are in the midst of a global plague that’s lasted over two years already and killed over a million people in the U.S. so far (based on estimates of the undercounted and uncounted deaths, which are only now starting to show up in newer studies) and more than six million deaths worldwide. China alone (where, again, major lockdowns and limited open theaters are severely suppressing ticket sales) would normally push The Batman beyond at least $800 million, if it made close to Batman v Superman’s gross in the Middle Kingdom, or $850+ million if it played closer to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies.
Another key difference that a lot of fans simply refuse to accept — be it out of sheer lack of understanding of the math involved, or merely willful ignorance due to resentment of the math involved — is that The Batman is a solo superhero movie, without additional major well-known superheroes to boost its viewership and popularity (so if you dislike Batman, there’s nothing else for you in the film); it’s a reboot of a franchise, not a continuation, and audiences tend to show up in lower numbers at first for reboots like this; and it follows several years of mixed financial and critical reception for DC movies, including some that included Batman, which also had budgets and marketing as high or higher than The Batman’s own expenses.
All of this is true regardless of how anyone feels about it, and there’s no “fairness” question involved. And of course, none of it has anything to do with whether this or that fan prefers this or that movie — discussing whether a movie is a financial success or not is a business conversation, it’s a profit consideration, and whether fans like it or not these movies are part of a business that invests other people’s money (hundreds of millions of dollars) to create these movies in order to make profit. We can discuss the artistic merits of the films, and we do, and I strenuously defend most of the previous DCEU releases. But my feelings about the stories and art are separate considerations.
The bottom line, then, is The Batman is a financial success and a blockbuster hit that ensures the franchise is on solid footing and has room to increase its revenue streams significantly. Remember, Batman Begins rebooted the franchise to the tune of $373 million back in 2005 and that plus the positive critical and audience reactions were enough to convince the studio Nolan had laid the groundwork necessary for sequels to perform much higher. Which is exactly what happened, when in 2008 The Dark Knight topped $1 billion.
So if The Batman can take $750+ million under current conditions, what might a sequel be capable of? I’m excited to see the answer to that question.
Once it hits HBO Max, expect The Batman to become an instant top streaming title. I’m particularly interested to see if the studio offers an extended version with the deleted Joker scene and Penguin-Catwoman scene edited back in where originally intended, rather than having to simply watch those scenes separately.
Those shows will also help further brand audiences to this new bat-world, and further increase the anticipation for sequel films. Imagine the public buzz after an Arkham Asylum limited series full of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, for example.
Stay tuned for more coverage of The Batman from me here, dear readers, and stay safe out there!