Warner Bros. is third in what looks to be a burgeoning trend of studios announcing movie release dates long before production on a movie has even begun. In this case, the film is still in the early stages of development (i.e. there might not even be a film treatment yet). The merit of such of move is calling dibs on that weekend, either as a challenge to the other studios or to intimidate other films to avoid opening their movies in the same time period.
That being said, it does appear that WB is playing catch-up, rather than making any dramatic displays of dominance.
Paramount Pictures, which started this trend by announcing the pdates in 2012 for “The Avengers” on May 4th and the “Star Trek” sequel on June 29th has clearly retained the upper hand in the battle for the geek dollar and Columbia Pictures, not to be outdone, booked the Independence Day weekend for the “Spider-Man” reboot. WB is obviously not intending to test the popularity of Batman against equally reliable franchises. Of course, it probably is also a shrewd marketing decision to maximise profits, seeing how “The Dark Knight” is still the highest-grossing comic book film, beating “Spider-Man 3”, though it does remain to be seen if “Iron Man 2” can usurp that title.
So far, 2012 looks to be the sequel to 2009’s Year of the Geek, which saw films like “Watchmen”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Star Trek”, “Terminator: Salvation”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “District 9” and of course, “Avatar” released to varying box office and critical reactions.