The Batman,” Matt Reeves’ pitch-black take on the oft-told story of the billionaire who became a costumed crime fighter, earned a muscular $21.6 million in Thursday previews. The superhero reboot is eyeing a debut of $100 million or more, buoyed by good reviews and interest in Robert Pattinson’s take on the title role. The former “Twilight” heartthrob plays both Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne, joining a long list of actors who have donned the cape and cowl that includes Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, Val Kilmer and, infamously, George Clooney — unlike Clooney, Pattinson’s costume doesn’t have nipples and a prodigious codpiece.

The Thursday total includes fan events from Tuesday and Wednesday, and it marks the second-best pre-show opening of the pandemic era — Marvel’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” still holds the record with its $50 million Thursday debut in December. That film enjoyed a fantastic $260.1 million debut. “The Batman’s” Thursday haul also beat pre-pandemic openings by DC Comics’ “The Joker” ($13.3 million), “Aquaman” ($13.7 million) and 2016’s “Suicide Squad” ($20.5 million).

“The Batman” is a big bet for Warner Bros. and its DC Films division. All that grit, grime and urban rot doesn’t come cheap, and bringing Gotham City and its most famous vigilante to life on screen cost a massive $200 million. That doesn’t include the tens of millions more in marketing and distribution costs. The good news is that some box office prognosticators believe $100 million is on the low-end of things and think “The Batman” has a shot of collecting at least $140 million in its first three days of release. If it does, “The Batman” will be only the second movie since COVID hit to cross the $100 million mark in a single weekend, joining Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opened last December to a monumental $260 million. Not even a pandemic can keep audiences away from comic book movies.

In addition to Pattinson, “The Batman” stars Paul Dano as the Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Andy Serkis as Batman’s butler Alfred Pennyworth, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as an obese crime lord known as Penguin. Warner Bros. is hoping that fans will flip for Reeves’ take on the comic book saga, giving them another valuable franchise to compete with Marvel.