July 20, 2008
‘Dark Knight’ Shines a Light at Box Office
By Glenn Whipp
It was a busy night for "The Dark Knight" on Thursday as the highly anticipated Batman sequel broke box-office records with its midnight showings.
"The Dark Knight" grossed $18.5million when the curtain raised at theaters, breaking the previous midnight record held by "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" since May 2005. The $18.5million does not take into account audiences at subsequent showings at 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., which, in many theaters, were packed as well.
The movie now sets its sights on the all-time opening weekend record of $151.1 million, set last year by "Spider-Man 3."
"To expect that much is beyond comprehension," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of the Box Office Guru Web site. "But this is a movie that is snowballing. Each day, expectations grow bigger and bigger."
Fantasy Moguls' box office analyst Steve Mason predicts that "The Dark Knight" will gross $136million this weekend. Entertainment Weekly guesses $128million. Pandya calls for at least $125million.
Repeat customers are fueling a fraction of the weekend's box office. "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan shot six sequences with IMAX cameras, making that format the first choice of hard-core fans. IMAX midnight showings took in a record $640,000 Thursday night.
Since many early IMAX showings are sold out, ticket buyers are making do with what they can get first and coming back later to see the movie at an IMAX location. That dance will likely continue throughout the movie's run, driving up its overall box office.
Huge openings are nothing new to the "Batman" franchise. Tim Burton's "Batman" was the first movie to have a $40 million weekend when it opened in June 1989.
The sequel, "Batman Returns," eclipsed that record with a $45million three-day take. Three years later, "Batman Forever" became the first movie to enjoy a $50 million weekend.
Pandya's says the current movie's success can be attributed to strong reviews, satisfaction with its predecessor "Batman Begins" and an intense curiosity to see the late Heath Ledger's last big- screen performance.
"And it's not just his last performance ... it's Heath Ledger playing The Joker," Pandya said. "It's a flashy, over-the-top, iconic role.
"People want to see it, and they don't want to wait."
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