'Batman' flies off with $15 million in box-office earnings


HOLLYWOOD - Batman Begins swooped into theaters Wednesday with a solid $15.07 million, including just-after-midnight shows, Warner Bros. reported yesterday.

While the Christopher Nolan film on which the studio has pinned hopes of resurrecting the franchise did not set any daily records - the biggest Wednesday opening belongs to Spider-Man 2 with $40.4 million - it was very good, and many in the industry expect the film's opening weekend to surpass that of the previous four Batmans.

It also illustrates how much the movie business has changed as it has grown - with films opening in more theaters, delivering bigger grosses faster. The first Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton in the title role, grossed $13.1 million in 2,194 theaters on Friday, June 23, in the record-setting summer of 1989, according to Dan Fellman, president of distribution at Warner Bros. With late shows from the previous night, the number rises to $15.4 million.

The last one, Batman and Robin, opened on Friday, June 20, 1997, with $16.1 million in 2,934 locations. Batman Begins opened in 3,718 theaters and will be in 3,858 today.

Opening-day audiences for the movie that stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman were about 64 percent male and 36 percent female, according to unscientific exit surveys, but Fellman said "that will definitely change on the weekend, because the females will increase as the weekend progresses."

In terms of records, the mark for the biggest single day belongs to Shrek 2's first Saturday, which brought in $44.8 million. Earlier this month, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith turned in the biggest Thursday ever with $50 million, according to the research company Nielsen EDI. The highest Friday number is still the $39.4 million taken in by Spider-Man on the first weekend in May 2002.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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