Sunday, July 20, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: A Bright Weekend for a Dark Knight

I was telling a friend of mine that THE DARK KNIGHT had beaten SPIDER-MAN 3 this weekend to claim the title of best 3-day opening weekend of all time. His response, big deal. Apparently, he’s heard enough of box office record breakers. It seems that every weekend some new movie has claimed the title of best R-rated, live action July opening for a non-sequel in a language other than English. It’s a shame really because all these box office boys calling wolf makes it hard to spot the real deal when it happens. And the records set by THE DARK KNIGHT this past weekend are definitely the real deal.

THE DARK KNIGHT, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger, set one record before it even began its Thursday night midnight screenings. Playing on 4,366 screens across North America, THE DARK KNIGHT had the widest release of all time, besting the previous record by PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END, which launched on 4,362 screens. The film then broke another record before its official launch date. Pulling in over $18.5 million from its Thursday midnight screenings, THE DARK KNIGHT bested the $16.9 million taken in from midnight showings by STAR WARS EPISODE III: THE REVENGE OF THE SITH. And that didn’t even include the extra screenings movie houses added at 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM to accommodate for the demand.

Going into its first official day of release with its head held very high, THE DARK KNIGHT then took in an unprecedented first day tally of $66.4 million (including the overnight screenings). These numbers bested the record for one-day take previously held by SPIDER-MAN 3, which took in $59.8 million on its first day in theatres. Prognosticators expected THE DARK KNIGHT to do well before the weekend started (you’d have to be pretty daft not to have figured that out) but it was not expected to shatter record for all-time best opening weekend. SPIDER-MAN 3 claimed that title last summer when it opened to an awesome $151.9 million but the bar has now been bumped up that much higher as THE DARK KNIGHT estimates have come in at $155.4 million.

I can’t say whether the excitement over THE DARK KNIGHT comes from an overwhelming interest in Batman movies, an audience that has grown exponentially since Nolan’s last Batman pic, BATMAN BEGINS (which, comparatively made a scant $47 million on its opening weekend) or whether the Heath Ledger fascination factor made the difference but whatever the reason THE DARK KNIGHT led the way for Hollywood’s most successful non-holiday weekend in history. The overall box office tally this weekend was roughly $250 million, besting the previous 3-day weekend record set on the weekend of July 7-9, 2006, where PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST led the way to a total of $218 million.

Yes, folks, movies other than THE DARK KNIGHT played in theatres this weekend. Musical MAMMA MIA! found its own following, taking in $27.6 million, narrowly besting the opening weekend take of last year’s sleeper hit, HAIRSPRAY. SPACE CHIMPS couldn’t pull any monkey love away from WALL-E, earning a scant $7.4 million.

NEXT WEEKEND: THE DARK KNIGHT faces some reasonable competition but should remain victorious. Well, I guess every X-phile could leave their basement for THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Or maybe people are truly desperate to see grown men, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly act like prepubescent punks in STEP BROTHERS … I mean, we’ve NEVER seen that before!

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