The Batman Bombed At The Box Office In China, But Anime Saved The Day In The US

Another week of March 2022 in the books, another week where "The Batman" topped the box office. Warner Bros.' reboot of DC's most popular superhero has proved to be a winner as it has now bested the competition for three weeks in a row and is about to cross the $600 million mark worldwide. Yet, this weekend saw it open in China, one of the few Hollywood movies getting the opportunity to play in the world's largest moviegoing market, where it hardly made any noise. This all but cements an important point for other blockbusters moving forward, and a painful one at that.

Meanwhile, the weekend's other new releases were a fascinating mixed bag, with "Jujutsu Kaisen 0" proving that anime has truly found an audience in North America, while "X" hoped to bring the horror crowd out for a new, original franchise. But both "The Outfit" and "Umma" took a trip to bomb city. Let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

The Batman wins the day and cements the path for future blockbusters

In its third week, director Matt Reeves' "The Batman" earned $36.8 million, easily taking the number one spot, according to Box Office Mojo. It now sits at $300 million domestically and is less than $2 million away from crossing the $600 million mark worldwide. Expect the studio to announce a sequel any second, and expect to see Robert Pattinson's first go-around as the Caped Crusader finish its run anywhere between $800 and $950 million when all's said and done, give or take. This is an absolute win.

That having been said, there was a great deal of excitement from Hollywood onlookers as the film made its debut in China. Before the pandemic, so many more American movies were being released there, and so much money was being made in many cases. Some movies downright depended on it. Yet, "The Batman" debuted with a mere $12.1 million, hampered greatly by the pandemic as rising infections have closed many of the nation's theaters once again. It's a disappointing result but one that comes with a cemented lesson for every other blockbuster in the future: you can no longer count on a release in China. End of discussion.

No movie can be made anymore with the hope that Chinese audiences will be there. Not only is it getting far more difficult to secure a release, but the ever-evolving situation has also ensured that, even when a movie like this does find its way to the Middle Kingdom, there is zero guarantee that it will pan out. Thus, studios can't make a movie while factoring in China in its bottom line. At best, Chinese box office dollars can (with a hard emphasis on can) be icing on the cake and nothing more.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 proves anime can be a golden ticket

There was not a great deal of talk in the mainstream media about the release of "Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie" heading into the weekend but, much like BTS taking a bite out of things last weekend, the anime flick ended up doing exceedingly well all while flying in under the radar. Taking in $14.8 million, the anime came in at number two this weekend, which was a damn impressive feat and a great bit of counter-programming that benefitted both movie theaters and its distributor Crunchyroll. Again, an absolute win for all involved.

Now, it seems a little unlikely that the manga adaptation will hold exceedingly well in the weeks to come, but this is not the first time in recent years that an anime flick has made a boatload of cash. "Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train" made an astonishing $454 million globally in 2020, including a chart-topping debut in the U.S. Anime is not as niche as it once was, and it can now put serious butts in seats, which is something that is sorely needed for the theatrical marketplace. This is a good thing.

X and the other new releases offer mixed results

This weekend saw not one but three other new releases arriving in theaters, with A24's horror flick "X" leading the way. This marked a return to the genre after years away for director Ti West, and a prequel film is already in the can. To say that the studio was confident in what they had would be an understatement. In the end, the R-rated, bloody slasher took in $4.4 million, losing out to "Uncharted" ($8 million) and debuting at number four. There are two ways to look at the results.

One would be to dismiss it as a relative disappointment, as horror has generally been doing quite well in theaters lately. But this was not an established franchise. It was something new and not for the faint of heart. This movie wasn't capable of casting a net as wide as "Scream." The fact that a very brutal horror movie about a group of people making a porn flick with no grabby A-list stars managed to do this much business is honestly probably better for the industry than people are likely to give it credit for. And the fact that it probably came in with a Blumhouse budget (probably in the $5 million range) means it isn't going to have to make a fortune to turn a profile. Plus, the 95% Rotten Tomatoes score suggests this one will find its audience, perhaps on VOD in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Focus Features' drama "The Outfit" hardly made a dent, coming in at number eight with just $1.5 million. This one is more likely to perhaps find some footing on VOD as well, but it will be all but forgotten theatrically come next weekend. Last but certainly not least we have Sandra Oh's horror/thriller "Umma," which was a downright flop taking in just $915,000, failing to even land in the top 10. A brutal result for Stage 6 Films, no doubt.

This week sees some truly major competition for "The Batman" for the first time since its release in the form of "The Lost City," which is hoping star power and fun can fill some seats. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds.