The Dark Knight has already broken an enormous number of records in just its first week. The Caped Crusader was already in the record books before the first showing when it was announced that it would launch in an unprecedented 4,366 theaters, breaking the previous high of 4,362 theaters set last May by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. That count is made even more impressive because of the large number of blockbusters still playing in many theaters.
The first Friday morning midnight showings started off with a bang, contributing $18.5 million, which beat Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith‘s record $16.9 million midnight bow from May 2005. Those huge midnight shows helped give The Dark Knight the biggest opening day and overall single day ever with $67.2 million, easily beating out Spider-Man 3‘s record breaking $59.8 million opening day set last May. The $67.2 million figure also became the biggest Friday ever recorded by a single film.
The Caped Crusader fell 29% on Saturday for a $47.7 million figure. This may seem steep at first glance, but subtracting the Thursday night midnight shows from Friday means that Saturday was essentially equal to Friday. That number was the 2nd best Saturday on record. Only Spider-Man 3 had a bigger Saturday.
The Dark Knight also tied the record for the fastest film to $100 million. It crossed that milestone in just 2 days, which was also the same amount of time it took Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. However, the tiebreaker edge goes to The Dark Knight since it had the highest total among the three films after two days.
The Batman Begins sequel set numerous more records on Sunday including the biggest Sunday ever with $43.6 million, topping Spidey 3‘s $39.9 million. Dark Knight fell just 9% on Sunday, which is an amazing hold for a non-holiday weekend Sunday. By comparison, Spidey 3, Dead Man’s Chest, and Revenge of the Sith fell 22%, 20%, and 16% respectively on their first Sundays.
During its opening weekend, The Dark Knight broke the most publicized of all records with its $158.4 million three day start, which narrowly edged out Spidey 3‘s previous benchmark of $151.1 million. What makes this number even more impressive is that it did it in July when the market is at its most crowded. The webslinger opened on the first weekend of May when there is much less competition. Knight had some direct competition from two other superhero films still in very wide release, Hancock and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The opening weekend also more than tripled Batman Begins’ $48.7 million launch.
The records kept coming for Batman during the week. The film collected $24.5 million on Monday for the best non-holiday that day has ever seen. $20.9 million more was added on Tuesday giving the film $203.8 million after just 5 days. The 5 days that it took Knight to reach $200 million crushed the old record of 8 days set by Spider-Man 2, Revenge of the Sith, and Dead Man’s Chest. On Wednesday, another $18.4 million was added, and I am projecting $16.3 million on Thursday for an opening week total of $238.5 million. That number easily beats the $196.1 million first week tally from Dead Man’s Chest, the current official record holder.
More records will continue to fall as the film continues its dominance in the marketplace. Records that The Dark Knight is basically guaranteed to crush are the biggest total after two and three weekends (and possibly even beyond that) and fastest to $300 million. There is also a solid shot of it becoming the fastest film to $400 million. The current record holder of that is Shrek 2, which crossed the milestone in just 43 days. Much harder but still a possibility is fastest to $500 million. The only film to ever gross more than $500 million in total is Titanic, crossing the half a billion mark in 98 days.
Knight also could post the biggest second weekend in history if it manages to beat out Shrek 2‘s $72.2 million number in its sophomore weekend. Knight would have to post a second weekend drop-off of 54% or less, which is reasonable but far from guaranteed. Shrek 2 only fell 33% during its second weekend but with the help of Memorial Day boosting Sunday evening shows.
Breaking records is nothing new to the Batman franchise. The first Batman from 1989, 1992’s Batman Returns, and 1995’s Batman Forever each broke the opening weekend record at the time of their releases. 1997’s Batman and Robin, however, nearly destroyed the franchise when it collapsed at the box office after its already sub-par opening weekend.
This made the path for 2005’s reboot, Batman Begins, a tough one, but the film had a long run in theaters and in the process nearly made twice as much as Batman and Robin did. Begins also gained millions more viewers through a very successful DVD and television run. Begins also hinted to the Joker making his return to the franchise just before the closing credits of the movie.
The Dark Knight ultimately had all the ingredients that a successful sequel should have. Most of the major protagonist characters returned, and only one of actors, Katie Holmes, was replaced, but the character stayed. Two Face and the Joker are the two most famous villains in the Batman universe, which alone would add significantly to the box office potential. The performances from the entire cast were nearly universally praised, especially the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger, who in my opinion deserves an Academy Award for best supporting actor. The reviews were among the best of the year with a 95% positive rating from the popular consensus review website, Rotten Tomatoes. That also ranks as the best reviewed comic book / superhero film on record. More>>
Box office data source: The Numbers