Warner Bros. is poised to bring the first big blockbuster of 2022 to theaters on March 4 with the release of The Batman. The film is expected to be among the biggest releases of the year and is already counting on significant buzz from fans on social media. The Batman will also be the studio’s first major title to open exclusively in theaters since 2020’s Tenet, with Warner Bros. discontinuing the day-and-date pipeline of its theatrical releases available to stream simultaneously on HBO Max. Theatrical exclusivity should help the title become Warner Bros.’ most lucrative release since Joker hit theaters in October of 2019.
The Batman will be the first of five Warner Bros. releases based on DC Comics properties scheduled to reach cinemas this year. Early footage from the animated DC League of Super-Pets was well received by exhibitors following an extended preview at CineEurope 2021 and should help re-engage family audiences upon its release on May 20. Heading into the summer, the star power of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should help Black Adam stand out in a crowded month of July at the box office. The studio will end its Q4 with the release of two DC Extended Universe properties: the long-delayed The Flash on November 4 and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom on December 16.
2022 will also see the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore on April 15. The Harry Potter spin-off hasn’t enjoyed the staying power at the box office it once showed, recent casting changes complicating the fraying connection the Fantastic Beasts series has with fans. Other titles currently on the schedule include music biopic Elvis on June 24, horror remake Salem’s Lot on September 9, and the thriller Don’t Worry, Darling on September 23.
Warner Bros.’ decision to make its entire 2021 theatrical slate available to stream simultaneously on HBO Max conditioned its box office potential throughout the year. The tactic helped bring buzz to its parent company’s streaming service and provided sorely needed stability on the release calendar. Throughout much of the first half of 2021, Warner Bros. was one of the few major studios exhibitors could rely on to stick with existing release dates and bring highly-anticipated movies to cinemas—even if it meant the titles would also be available at home.
Titles like Tom & Jerry, Mortal Kombat, and Godzilla vs. Kong played an important role in supplying cinemas with fresh movies as they re-opened through April. Each of those movies enjoyed little to no competition from rival studios during their respective theatrical runs. That advantage quickly dissipated as the vaccination rate in the United States and Canada improved in the late Spring. Paramount’s release of A Quiet Place Part II launched its exclusive run in theaters over Memorial Day weekend, proving a sizable part of the general audience was willing to return to cinemas for a high-profile title. Warner Bros. was unable to find similar success weeks later with the day-and-date launch of In the Heights, which failed to connect with audiences in theaters. Seven of the studio’s day-and-date releases grossed under $15 million domestically, each of them receiving a wide release in theaters. Six of those titles were released after the month of April.
Warner Bros. was one of two major studios to consistently bring major titles to cinemas in 2021 (alongside Universal), but was nevertheless unable to place a single of its releases among the year’s top ten titles at the domestic box office. The studio’s two biggest hits of the year, Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong, the only two Warner Bros. movies to cross $100 million in 2021, did so in large part due to the strength of Premium Large Format
2022 Theatrical Slate
The Batman | March 4
Fantastic Beasts: Legends of Dumbledore | April 15
DC League of Super-Pets | May 20
Elvis | June 24
Black Adam | July 29
Salem’s Lot | September 9
Don’t Worry, Darling | September 23
The Flash | November 4
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom | December 16
2021 Domestic Box Office Performance
2021 Domestic Box Office Total: $666.8 Million (Third Place)
Top 2021 Titles
(Calendar Year Grosses for Films Released in 2021)
October 22 | $107.1M
Godzilla vs. Kong
March 31 | $100.9M
Space Jam: A New Legacy
July 16 | $70.5M
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
June 11 | $65.3M
The Suicide Squad
June 4 | $55.8M
Tom & Jerry
February 26 | $46.5M
April 23 | $42.3M
In the Heights
June 11| $29.9M
The Matrix: Resurrections
December 22 | $28.1M