N. American box office: The Batman scores $175 million, second-biggest pandemic debut

Bringing Batman to the big screen does not come cheap, and achieving profitability will not be easy. PHOTO: WARNER BROS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Holy ticket sales, Batman!

English actor Robert Pattinson's pitch-black superhero adventure The Batman collected a mighty US$128.5 million (S$175 million) in its box office debut, marking the best opening weekend of 2022 by a landslide.

But what is more impressive: it is only the second pandemic-era movie to cross the US$100 million mark in a single weekend, a feat first achieved by Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), which launched last December to a historic US$260 million.

Thanks to positive reviews, strong reception from ticket buyers and high levels of intrigue to see Pattinson's moody take on the Caped Crusader, The Batman is shaping up to be a commercial winner for Warner Bros.

That is good news because the studio shelled out a hefty US$200 million to produce the film and spent many millions more in marketing and distribution costs.

Bringing Batman to the big screen does not come cheap, and achieving profitability will not be easy.

The Batman also likely benefited because the comic book adaptation is playing exclusively in theatres.

For Warner Bros, which opted to debut its entire 2021 theatrical film slate simultaneously on HBO Max, The Batman marks a deviation as the studio's first movie in over a year that is only available to watch in cinemas. The Batman lands on HBO Max in 45 days.

It is impossible to know the box office impact of putting movies day-and-date on streaming, but The Batman has generated more money in its opening weekend than any other Warner Bros pandemic movies grossed in their entire theatrical runs.

Prior to The Batman, the studio's highest grossing movies since March 2020 were Godzilla Vs Kong (2021, US$100 million in North America) and Dune (2021, US$109 million in North America).

Of course, it helps that The Batman has the glittery promise of a former Twilight (2008 to 2012) heartthrob playing one of the most famous comic book characters in history.

But there were plenty of factors that could have worked against a different, less-embraced version of The Batman.

For one, it clocks in at three hours, which is a long sit for even the biggest movie-lover. Not to mention, the logistics of its lengthy running time meant that cinema operators had to limit the number of screenings per day.

Since The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, notched a PG-13 rating rather than R, the film was able to capture the key demographic of younger males, who have been fuelling the box office's wobbly recovery.

In addition to Pattinson, The Batman stars Paul Dano as the Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Andy Serkis as Batman's butler Alfred Pennyworth, and Colin Farrell as a crime lord known as Penguin.

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By focusing on Bruce Wayne's alter ego as "the world's greatest detective", the movie feels more like a gritty noir than an escapist superhero adventure.

Reviews seemed to be fond of that approach, since The Batman has been praised for feeling notably distinct from past adventures centred on Gotham's ferocious defender, like director Christopher Nolan's revered The Dark Knight trilogy (2005 to 2012) or actor Ben Affleck's brooding, middle-aged take on the character in the DC Extended Universe.

Prior to last weekend, Spider-Man actor Tom Holland's video game adaptation Uncharted held the title for the biggest opening weekend of the year with US$44 million in initial sales.

The Batman, based on a far more ubiquitous property, beat that benchmark after earning US$57 million on opening day alone.

Yet Uncharted, which is still playing in cinemas, managed to bring in solid business despite the outsized attention for The Batman.

In second place, the film pocketed US$10 million from 3,875 theatres between Friday and Sunday, pushing Uncharted past US$100 million at the North American box office.

American actor Channing Tatum's canine adventure Dog landed at No. 3 with US$6 million from 3,507 theatres.

The road-trip buddy comedy continues to surprise, crossing US$40 million in North America over the weekend. In Covid-19 times, it is a promising result for a US$15 million-budgeted film.

Spider-Man: No Way Home and Death On The Nile took spots four and five on domestic box office charts.

The third Spidey instalment with Holland at the helm brought in US$4.3 million over the weekend, boosting its North American tally to a towering US$786 million.

It is the third weekend in a row that Holland has been in two of the top four movies at the weekend box office.

In an especially rare feat, No Way Home has managed to stay within the top five on the rankings since the film premiered in December.

Disney and 20th Century's murder mystery Death On The Nile grossed US$2.6 million between Friday and Sunday.

After four weekends on the big screen, the movie has earned a so-so US$37 million in North America.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who stars in the movie alongside Armie Hammer, Gal Gadot and Letitia Wright, Death On The Nile cost US$90 million to produce.

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