The Batman Box Office Numbers Point To DC's (Potentially) Promising Future

We just had one of the most significant weekends at the box office we've had in several months — and not coincidentally, the gap was measured between the two biggest superheroes on the planet. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" was released in December and has been shattering records while propping up movie theaters ever since. But there's a new detective in town in the form of "The Batman," which faced virtually no direct competition and managed a heroic debut, making for one of the best of the pandemic era. In the process, we learned a lot about the future of both DC and the industry at large. Let's have a look at the numbers, shall we?

The Batman soars to impressive heights

Warner Bros. scored the win it has been hoping to score for more than five years now as "The Batman" opened with $134 million domestically, beating earlier estimates that surfaced on Sunday, according to Box Office Mojo. That makes for the second-best opening of the pandemic behind only "Spider-Man: No Way Home," which shattered records by taking in $260 million a few months back. That a movie that made around half of that ranks well above the rest of the competition signals just how much far ahead of the rest of the pack these two franchises are. These are the two biggest superheroes on the planet, plain and simple.

Robert Pattinson's dark and gritty debut as our new Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, has collected $254 million globally up to this point, making for a fantastic start even when taking its gigantic $200 million budget into account. The budget wasn't originally going to be close to that, but the whole stop-and-start of the pandemic, in addition to costly protocols that were put in place, inflated the budget a great deal. To help matters, critics and audiences alike have responded incredibly well to the film, which currently boasts an 85% critic rating and a 90% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

That response should help the week-to-week holdover as March unfolds. Though it is also worth pointing out that pretty much every other studio moved out of the way, clearing a path for "The Batman" to dominate unabated. The big takeaway here is that Reeves created a brand new world totally separate from Ben Affleck's Batman and the DCEU, and it worked like gangbusters. Letting these characters breathe without the weight of a connected universe seems to not only work for DC's heroes, but it helps to separate DC from Marvel. Look at "Joker" making an unreal $1 billion globally back in 2019. Even "Aquaman," which ranks as the highest-grossing DC movie ever released, was very much its own adventure that wasn't too concerned with the rest of the universe, opting to craft its own, sprawling world within the larger framework of the DCEU.

The point is, as Affleck gets ready to hang it up as Batman and with the multiverse taking shape, it seems DC can win by being less concerned with connecting everything together. The numbers indicate that this is a winning strategy, and Warner Bros. would be wise to read the tea leaves here.

The Spider-Man comparison

It's important to look at "The Batman" compared to "Spider-Man: No Way Home" here. Not to start some petty Marvel vs. DC debut, but because these are the biggest games in town with new movies released fairly close together. In terms of raw numbers, it won't even be close. "No Way Home" made more than $1.8 billion globally and is one of the highest-grossing movies ever. "The Batman" figures to rake it in worldwide, but not on that level. There's simply no way.

That being said, we don't need to lower one to raise the other here. "No Way Home" was, in many ways, playing a different game entirely. This was a culmination movie that almost played like "Avengers: Endgame," in that it was three generations of a gigantic franchise uniting on screen for the first time. The promise of that, coupled with great reviews and the staying power of the MCU, created a perfect storm. It is not fair to expect that any other movie, one featuring Batman or otherwise, would also reach those same heights.

Reeves, meanwhile, was tasked with giving us our third big-screen version of Batman in the span of a decade. He had to differentiate a character that has been interpreted many, many times over the years while divorcing it from DC's big shared universe, all while contending with an unstable pandemic marketplace. So the fact that it debuted as strongly as it did is an absolute win and sets up this version of the franchise for an even brighter future.

Uncharted and Dog kept their heads above water

Luckily, Tom Holland's "Uncharted" managed to stay afloat to some degree despite the stiff competition. In its third week of release, Sony's video game adaptation took in $11 million, pushing it past the $100 million mark domestically and putting its global total at $271 million. I'll be honest, I didn't expect this movie to get anywhere near these numbers and the fact that it has a real shot at crossing $400 million by the time its run is over is pretty damn impressive. Credit where credit is due, Sony.

Meanwhile, Channing Tatum's well-liked "Dog" also did okay, coming in at number three with $6 million. It has now made $44 million globally, yet less than $5 million of that has come from international audiences. If it can get some sort of rollout overseas, this $15 million budgeted crowd-pleaser could prove to be a gigantic winner when all is said and done. The movie business needs more wins like this, especially when it's seemingly superheroes and only superheroes mostly keeping the box office afloat.

And the rest...

In not-so-great news this weekend, the acclaimed "Cyrano" fell off a cliff, taking in just $683,000 in its second week. Ouch. Director Joe Wright's movie has made just $3.5 million total and figures to be another example of an acclaimed filmmaker's good work falling flat theatrically, joining the likes of "West Side Story," "Nightmare Alley," and "The Last Duel," as other recent examples.

"Death on the Nile" earned another $2.7 million in the number five spot, bringing its total to $105 million worldwide. Still nowhere near profitability but the fact that an adult-skewing flick made that kind of money is encouraging on some level. "Sing 2" added a little more to its stack with $1.5 million at number six as its run nears its final number, while "Jackass Forever" fell to number seven with $1.3 million. The good news: the comedy has crossed $71 million worldwide, earning more than 7 times its tiny $10 million budget.

The big takeaway is that the other nine films in the top ten grossed just shy of $29 million combined. This is an issue that the industry probably needs to figure out in the long run. We need more than one or two movies to make decent money week-to-week or things at theaters will become even more lopsided. It's why we're getting variable ticket pricing and why viewers paid more to watch "The Batman" this weekend, adding to its impressive total. There has to be a better path forward. But, for now, it's good to know movies can still make bank when the occasion calls for it.