Holy letdown! After a healthy $43 million opening weekend, Batman & Robin, the fourth installment of Warner Bros.' bank-breaking franchise, has fallen victim to a box office cold snap only Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze could love. In its second weekend, B&R grossed $15.7 million, an astonishing 63 percent drop. Granted the trend this summer has been one of steep second-weekend declines The Lost World fell 62 percent but with B&R's budget conservatively estimated at $140 million (including marketing), many observers wonder if this box office collapse could signal the end of the Bat.
''This is a disaster,'' says Ed Mintz, who tracks audience response and box office performance for CinemaScore. ''It may be a signal that the Batman series is over.'' According to Mintz, poor word of mouth hurt the Dynamic Duo. Another reason for the drop-off: a packed summer lineup that saw competitors Face/Off and Hercules open just seven days after B&R. ''We acknowledge the fact that it has taken this drop,'' says Charlotte Kandel, Warner's exec VP of publicity. ''But it's probably going to be our biggest Batman overseas.''
At this point, it wouldn't be too costly for the studio to halt plans for a fifth film, tentatively called Batman Triumphant. Though George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell have expressed interest in another suit-up, the studio has yet to sign anyone officially; so far, only a script has been commissioned. Says Kandel of another Batfilm, ''We're miles away from deciding.'' In other words, perhaps it's up to that third weekend.