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2005: A Great Year to be a Bat-Fan!
Author: Jett
Monday, January 2, 2006

2005 was a great year to be a Batman fan -- particularly of The Batman, on film.

After a very long eight year wait, a new BATMAN movie finally hit theaters. Not only that, but to many -- critics, fans, and this author -- BATMAN BEGINS was the best Bat-film ever produced. Many hail it as the definitive cinematic version of the character to date. This was a film that was not only enjoyed by critics and fans of The Dark Knight, but the general movie audience as well. As a result, BATMAN BEGINS raked in around $205 million at the box office, over $50 million in rentals (as of this writing), and made huge coin in sales. (Although Warner Bros. refused to release exact numbers to BOF, it has been reported that sales of the DVD so far have taken in about 90% -- around $184 million -- of the total box office!)

2005 began with a bang here at BATMAN ON FILM as our set visit reports by Paul J. Wares went online. I was invited by Warner Bros. to be part of a set visit in the U.K. scheduled for September of 2004. Unable to attend myself, this opened up the door for our U.K. editor, Mr. Wares (Paul’s excellent account can be read by CLICKING HERE).

During the Super Bowl in February, a short ad aired for the film that would hit a huge television audience. Over the last decade plus, the Super Bowl ads have become almost as popular as the game itself. If you regularly tune in, you know what I’m talking about. People wait with baited breath for the next spot to air. And according to my own two eyes, it seemed to do as was intended. While attending a rather larger Super Bowl party, I witnessed outcries of “Not another one,” as the BEGINS ad, uh, began. To “that looks badass,” as it ended.

In March, the first television spots hit the airways. In a smart move by the marketing department at Warner Bros., ads aired on SPIKE TV, ESPN, and on CBS during its coverage of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. The ads were short and to the point. One was nothing more than swarming bats flying across a dark orange sky with “BATMAN BEGINS” showing up across the screen at the end. Another had The Batman himself leaping off a building, ‘flying” towards the camera, and again ending with the film’s title across the screen.

Good stuff there -- definitely NOT anything like BATMAN AND ROBIN. Which was exactly the point that was trying to be made to potential movie-goers.

As 2005 progressed, many Bat-fans began to complain about the “lack” of promotion that the film was getting. Outcries on message boards around the Net accused Warner Bros. of not properly getting the word out to the mainstream audience about the film. “Why can’t BATMAN be promoted like WAR OF THE WORLDS or FANTASTIC 4 or STAR WARS?" With $205 million in ticket sales during its run, this argument became a moot point. The idea not to shove this film down people’s throats via ads -- let the film sale itself. Smart. Very smart in my opinion. The studio and filmmakers rolled the dice trusting the quality of BATMAN BEGINS would generate positive word of mouth, and the film would promote itself.

And bingo, that’s exactly what happened.

No fastfood tie-ins. No rock/pop soundtrack. Bat-toys yes -- but no overkill. None of that was needed to sell this film.

Finally, summer 2005 arrived, with Bat fans ready for BEGINS to hit theaters. On a personal note, I was able to take part in perhaps a "once in a lifetime" event. I was invited by Warner Bros. to attend the BATMAN BEGINS PRESS JUNKET in Beverly Hills, California in early June. Not only was I going to be able to meet the cast and crew, but I would also see a screening of BEGINS over two weeks before it would actually hit theaters.

BATMAN BEGINS hit theaters (domestically) on Wednesday, June 15, 2005, taking in $48.7 million opening weekend. Among critics, BEGINS received generally positive reviews. According to the ROTTEN TOMATOES website, the film had a rating of “Fresh” (63%) among the “cream of the crop” film critics. All reviewers combined gave BEGINS another “Fresh” rating (83%). Readers of the website BOX OFFICE MOJO gave BEGINS and overall grade of A-.

The great thing about BATMAN BEGINS was not the postive reaction by Bat-fans, the critical acclaim, or the box office success, but what the mainstream movie audience thought about it. Generally, they loved it! At almost every showing I attended, applause broke out at the end. The reaction I typically got was “Man, I was surprised how good it was!” Consequently, the positive word of mouth gave BATMAN BEGINS “legs” throughout the summer.

BATMAN BEGINS ended its 142 day theater run on the 30th of October, 2005. It was the #7 movie at the box office in 2005.

Before the theater run of BEGINS ended, the DVD hit stores on October 18th. Sales and rentals during the last quarter of 2005 did remarkably well -- perhaps better than expected. Although BEGINS performed nicely at the box office, many people saw it (or will see) the film for the first time on DVD. Perhaps many were hesitant to plop down money at a theater to see it after the debacle that was BATMAN AND ROBIN. But once they see how good the film actually is, many who didn't see BEGINS in a theater will turn out for the sequel.

And speaking of BATMAN CONTINUES or whatever it will be called, the scuttlebutt about what we many see has already started. As the ending of BEGINS suggested, The Joker is very likely to show up in the next film. So who will play him? Names such as Sean Penn, Steve Carrell, and Sam Rockwell have been rumored as potential candidates for the Crown Prince of Crime. However, the rumor mill has suggested that Australian Lachy Hulme and Brit Paul Bettany may be the leading candidates for the role.

Will a crime fighting triumvirate of The Batman, Lt. Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent form in Gotham?

What other members of The Batman’s rouges gallery may we see on film? The Penguin could turn up as a British arms dealer. Roman Sionis -- aka Black Mask -- may try to take Carmine Falcone’s place as Gotham’s crime lord. Plus, The Scarecrow was never caught and many of Arkham’s criminals are still on the loose. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Icing on the cake was the long awaited release the previous four BATMAN films as “Special Editions.” Not only did each feature the movie on one disc, but an additional DVD with tons of extras.

So yes, 2005 was indeed a great year for Bat-fans. But we have a lot to look forward to as well. The sequel should arrive in theaters summer 2008. So there is a lot of time for speculating about that film over the next two and a half years. In the meantime, you can keep yourself Bat-busy with the multitude of Batman-related comics, books, or movies.

And of course, you can always watch BATMAN BEGINS over and over again -- just to tide you over until The Dark Knight’s next cinematic extravaganza.

"Jett" is the editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM and BATMAN IN COMICS.

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