Let’s keep the focus on “The Batman” for a moment. The good news for this movie is that it almost certainly turned a profit, albeit a relatively small one, in its theatrical run. That often isn’t the case for a blockbuster-sized movie. So, what happens if a movie doesn’t make back all of its money in theaters? It comes down to other revenue streams, referred to as ancillary revenue streams. This includes Blu-ray/DVD sales (small though they may be these days), cable rights, VOD/digital rentals, merchandise, and other such ways of generating money beyond the box office. In the case of a big superhero movie, merchandise can be a gigantic part of the equation.
These numbers get trickier to compute due to a lack of publicly available data, but for a movie like “The Batman,” all of these revenue streams will be icing on the cake because it was successful in theaters. Warner Bros. can now collect from this film in perpetuity. For as long as Blu-rays are sold, the movie is streamed, or toys are purchased, there is profit to be made. In the case of a movie that perhaps didn’t get into profits in theaters, these revenue streams can, over time, get the movie into the black. Again, that used to be much easier when home video sales were higher, as digital rentals/purchases and streaming revenue have yet to reach a point of generating the same levels of revenue.
Looking at another 2022 movie, Jordan Peele’s “NOPE,” we can see how ancillary revenues might save the day. The film made $171 million against a reported $68 million budget. So no, it did not hit its break-even point in theaters using our rough math from earlier, even if Universal was thrifty with the marketing budget. That said, over time, thanks to streaming, likely solid VOD sales, and even merch (you can buy one of the “Scorpion King” crew hoodies online), “NOPE” can eventually make its way to the break-even point.