Weekend Box Office Forecast: The Batman Paces for Second $100M+ Pandemic Debut with Potential for Much More

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. & DC ("The Batman")

The following is a breaking report. Forecasts and ranges will be updated/finalized before Friday if necessary.

A slow winter movie season unofficially begins to thaw in a big way this weekend with the highly anticipated launch of Matt Reeves and Warner Bros.’ The Batman.

March has often marked a box office turning point in recent years as the pre-summer slate goes into full swing and an increasing number of tentpoles have landed at this point on the calendar. Warner’s latest reboot of their most prized DC property is no different in that regard, but it holds an extra special importance as the studio’s first theatrically exclusive release since Tenet in late summer 2020.

The film is tracking to become just the sixth March release to ever post more than $100 million for its domestic opening weekend, with the universe of metrics and pre-sales both indicating much more is likely. It would be the second film of the pandemic to cross that threshold after Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Reeves’ vision for “Year Two” of Bruce Wayne’s progression into the Batman persona has been tracking remarkably well in the lead-up to release, and strong reviews are now in play backing it for a final push of momentum. Our social gauges have seen upticks since the review embargo came down on Monday, further bolstering strong positive sentiment.

The lingering questions regarding how widely The Batman will cast its net with a mainstream audience remain. This is, after all, the second reboot of the character to hit movie screens in the last six years. Christopher Nolan’s own beloved trilogy is still relatively fresh in the grand scheme of things as its finale, The Dark Knight Rises, is just celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

After that swan song, Warner Bros. went back to the drawing board just four years later with Ben Afflect donning the cowl in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — and then again in 2017’s Justice League. Those two films were broadly rejected by fans and audiences compared to past franchise hits. (And of course, we can’t forget about the wildly popular LEGO Batman Movie back in 2017.)

These factors validate the question as to whether Batman might be slightly over-saturated outside the die hard fan base. However, this character, barring only rare examples, has been mostly bulletproof at the box office over the course of the last 33 years.

Pre-sales began to taper off in a marginal-but-impactful way last week, but that trend is tentatively reversing again thanks to this week’s review boost and final window of early ticket buyers. DC films have notably out-performed a number of our prior forecasting models, including Joker and Aquaman, while landing close to past forecasts for Shazam! and Wonder Woman.

Due to the still-fractured nature of pandemic era tracking, aiming to course correct for those comparisons remains a challenge that drives some volatility in projected scenarios for The Batman‘s debut. While Marvel Studios has delivered a near-handful of theatrical releases since last summer, the audience habits between DC and Marvel do not always correlate in a wholly reliable way for forecasting models. Still, it’s a stronger foundation of comps to have than nothing at all.

The three-hour runtime of this film presents a barrier to the number of shows exhibitors can dedicate, particularly in premium auditoriums. That latter point is worth considering as The Batman has dominated IMAX and other PLF pre-sales, but traditional auditoriums have been slower to pick up the pace relative to recent comic book films.

Lastly, the mood of the film itself is the most psychological and adult-oriented of any Batman film to date, according to many who have seen it. While Christopher Nolan’s films famously grounded the character in practical realism relatively to the light, often comedic elements of prior films, they still played to very broad audiences thanks to a balance of storytelling depth and fun, escapist moments.

With that in mind, concerns around Joker‘s thematic drive were a concern leading up to its release in 2019, yet that proved to actually be a strong advantage in driving adult appeal and helping the film far out-perform all expectations. Hence, the complication of forecasting models with DC films — a brand that fans often prefer darker tones from, relative to the Marvel universe.

On the numbers front, comparisons could lean more heavily toward the likes of Joker itself and 2017’s Logan than the uber-front-loaded Batman v Superman. The latter opened on Good Friday and saw word of mouth impact internal weekend business almost immediately, resulting in a sharp 37.9 percent decline from Friday to Saturday with previews included. Conversely, Joker dropped 17.5 percent and Logan eased just 5.1 percent.

We expect Warner Bros. to roll all Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday grosses into Friday as one single “opening day” figure for The Batman.

Any concerns outlined here could quickly be put to rest if the critical 18-25 demographic turns out in strong fashion this weekend, though. That’s the audience at the heart of theatrical recovery in the short- and long-term, and they’ve done their part with films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, the recent Uncharted, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and a number of others since last spring.

Additionally, COVID restrictions and actual cases are down significantly across the country and nice weather is signaling a hopeful spring during the waning pandemic. NRG also reports, via Deadline, that moviegoer sentiment is at or near all-time highs during the health crisis.

Meanwhile, media coverage has turned its attention to the unfortunate situation between Ukraine and Russia and the resulting humanitarian tragedies, which not only takes the pandemic off the minds of the masses to some extent, but could add to a sense of need for stateside escapism at the movies this weekend and in the weeks ahead. The natural question there, of course, is whether a gritty three-hour film fills that void for casual moviegoers and those who are just beginning to return to cinemas.

Ultimately, adult appeal could help push The Batman over the edge, but it’s important for the younger tranche of moviegoers to come into Robert Pattinson’s first film as the Dark Knight with the sentiment that this may be *their* generation’s Batman. If that happens, and if walk-up sales prove robust beyond initial shows, it won’t be hard for the movie to land on the high end of expectations.

The Batman is planned for distribution in over 4,300 theaters across North America this weekend. IMAX began fan previews on Tuesday evening, followed by AMC’s Investor Connect screenings Wednesday night. Traditional previews begin on Thursday afternoon.

As a footnote, Amazon Studios is distributing Hotel Transylvania: Transformania at a projected 900-plus theaters this weekend. The studio has not confirmed that figure, and it’s uncertain as to whether or not they will report grosses, so the film is excluded from forecasts below. The animated sequel originally released for streaming on Amazon Prime back in January.

Opening Forecast Ranges

The Batman
Opening Weekend Range: $130 – $170 million*

Weekend Forecast & Location Counts

Boxoffice projects between a 200 to 265 percent increase for this weekend’s top ten films from last weekend’s $55.0 million top ten aggregate. 

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, March 6 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
The Batman Warner Bros. $150,000,000* $150,000,000 4,417 NEW
Uncharted Sony Pictures / Columbia $10,800,000 $100,000,000 3,875 -53%
Dog United Artists Releasing $7,500,000 $41,500,000 3,507 -26%
Spider-Man: No Way Home Sony Pictures / Columbia & Marvel Studios $3,600,000 $785,400,000 2,709 -38%
Death on the Nile Disney / 20th Century Studios $2,800,000 $37,100,000 2,565 -38%
Sing 2 Universal Pictures $1,900,000 $153,900,000 2,016 -16%
Jackass Forever Paramount Pictures $1,500,000 $54,700,000 1,981 -52%
Marry Me Universal Pictures $800,000 $21,700,000 1,241 -58%
Cyrano United Artists Releasing $725,000 $2,700,000 797 -48%
Scream (2022) Paramount Pictures $700,000 $80,400,000 853 -48%

*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studiosThe above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. & DC ("The Batman")