When you mention Batman movies and Christmas, most fans will likely think of Tim Burton's Batman Returns first. This would be an understandable connection to make since the sequel takes place during the holiday season, but the film was released in June of 1992. Over a year and a half later though, the other major Batman movie tied to Christmas debuted with the release of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, which debuted on Christmas Day in 1993. Though the film opened to critical acclaim, the cinematic continuation of the Batman animated series failed to find audiences, bringing in just $5.8 million and failing to match its production budget.
Perhaps no one else remembers how small the audience was for the film when it was released than co-star Mark Hamill, who tweeted about his memory of seeing the film on opening night. 26 years later, Hamill is able to laugh about it all, but the voice actor (who reprised his role of The Joker for the movie) remembered his experience of seeing the film with...a less than full audience.
Opening night in NYC I took my whole family. Less than 20 people showed up. All huge #Batman fans who recognized me & said hello. I invited them to sit with us & we almost filled 2 whole rows-Almost. It finally saw a profit on home video & is now considered a classic #TrueStory🃏 https://t.co/36KQaY9wwN— Mark HoHoHoHamill (@HamillHimself) December 25, 2019
In the movie, a figure from Bruce Wayne's past returns to Gotham City and takes on the mantle of the Phantasm. The killer vigilante is out for revenge on criminals that ruined their family's life, one of whom is the man who went on to become the Joker. As Hamill said, Today Mask of the Phantom is something of a cult classic compared to other Batman movies. Some consider it to be the best Batman film ever and see it as overlooked because it is animated. On Rotten Tomatoes, Mask of the Phantasm has a higher rating than any of the Burton or Schumacher Batman films and a higher score than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The film was given the HD treatment and released on Blu-ray just two years ago where it was included with the Blu-ray box set of Batman: The Animated Series. Phantasm also features the voices of Batman: The Animated Series voices Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as well as newcomers Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, and Abe Vigoda.
Despite the popularity of the animated feature, the lead antagonist from the series has yet to make an appearance in the main continuity of DC Comics, but that will change very soon. A new take on the character is set to appear in Tom King's upcoming Batman/Catwoman series. Though it's unclear if the one wearing the mask will be the same character as it was in the film, someone wearing the costume from the beloved animated movie will appear to take on the Dark Knight and his new bride.
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