Dark Knight Sets Box Office Record
July 20, 2008

The new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, set a new box office record, according to the New York Times. Warner estimates that the film made $155.3 million over the three-day weekend, beating the previous record-holder, Spider-Man 3, which made $151.1 million.

Dark Knight poster

$18.5 million came from the midnight showings, which were so popular that they scheduled more after the first ones sold out. Imax showings, which cost more for an average ticket, may have also helped the movie set a record.

The article goes on to talk about how attendance patterns are much more front-loaded these days than they used to be by comparing this film to the first Batman movie. Note that that earlier film made back its filming budget in its opening weekend, while this movie didn’t. And once adjusted for inflation, the first film would be considered more successful.

In 1989, Batman, with a reported budget of $35 million, opened to about $40.5 million and went on to take in more than $251 million at the domestic box office. The Dark Knight, by contrast, has been reported to cost over $180 million. Given the pattern of contemporary blockbusters, the film appears unlikely to match the performance of its predecessor, whose domestic box office sales would be on the order of $450 million if adjusted to reflect ticket price inflation.

Today’s event films tend to open bigger, and disappear more quickly, than those of the past. Thus, Spider-Man 3 took in about 45 percent of its $336.5 million in total sales on its opening weekend, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End took in 37 percent of its $309.4 million on the first weekend last year. Batman, by contrast, relied on the opening weekend for just 16 percent of sales.

They are expecting this movie to beat the total domestic take of Batman Begins by the end of this first week, though, over $200 million. That’s quite a rapid return.

17 Responses  
James Schee writes:  

I’m curious to see how it does its second week. I was pretty dissapointed in it, as while Bale makes a great Bruce Wayne (both as public boob and driven friend to Alfred and Fox) yet when the costume goes on there is nothing there.

I couldn’t help but compare it to Iron Man. IM has the superhero blowing things up and flying in a great looking costume, Batman has the character fighting in darkly lit buildings in a goofy costume.

Don’t get me started on the female characters. Or should I call them trophies?

Jim Henley writes:  

Those are good points the NYT makes about the financial comparison with the first Tim Burton Batman, but I don’t know about predicting TDK’s attendance from Spider-Man 3 and the third Pirates. S3 just wasn’t as good a movie as the first two. I’m not a Pirates person, but don’t fans of Pirates I find both the later films disappointing? Meanwhile, most people seem to like TDK more than I did, and on balance, I liked it pretty well. So it may have more legs than the other two. My sister’s family (non-fans) loved it.

Jack writes:  

James Schee is stupid. I cannot believe that you think Iron Man is better..

I bet you didn’t like The Departed either. Let me guess, you think Water World doesn’t get a fair shake either…

I bet you haven’t even seen the movie

James Schee writes:  

LOL, hey Jack I’ve been called worse in my time. Can you tell me, if Johanna doesn’t mind us discussing the movie here, what some of the high points of the movie were for you?

I thought Ledger was good in his role, though it was one that seemed to be written conflictivly. I mean on one hand he bemoans order, plans and schemers. Yet he seems to have a lot of complicated plans and schemes as well.

I do strangely prefer the IM movie I must admit. (which is odd as I prefer Batman to Iron Man) Iron Man was just more… bright, fun and interesting. Batman was dark and the tragedy was hollow seeming to me. It would have probably worked better for me if I’d been made to care about the people the tragic events were happening to.

Johanna writes:  

Jim, it’s not just about legs, but about theaters rushing films in and out more quickly than they used to, too. We want to see something that came out about a month ago, and it’s only playing in our area one show a day now, too late at night for us.

Jack, calling other people names isn’t allowed here. I’m sure I’ll enjoy Iron Man more than Dark Knight, too — in fact, if patterns hold true, I probably won’t even see DK until a couple of years from now. :)

James, great response. And feel free to discuss.

Jim Henley writes:  

Jim, it’s not just about legs, but about theaters rushing films in and out more quickly than they used to, too.

Good point!

I thought Ledger was good in his role, though it was one that seemed to be written conflictivly. I mean on one hand he bemoans order, plans and schemers. Yet he seems to have a lot of complicated plans and schemes as well.

Lord knows I have my problems with TDK, but this wasn’t one of them. It doesn’t strike me as problematic, from either a plot or theme perspective, that the crazy evil guy says one thing but sometimes does another.

Roger A. writes:  

I wonder how much “legs” or “theaters rushing films in and out” has to do with the changing habits of the public. I know an awful lot of people who say “I’ll wait for it on video” since they know it will be available in six months or less. I wasn’t hearing that back in ’89. Movie going habits have really changed in the past 20 years.

Johanna writes:  

Very true, especially for those who like behind-the-scenes extras. I think trying to make all the money in the first week is also a way of trying to combat word of mouth, which is easier to find these days.

patrick writes:  

kudos to the makers Dark Knight for their record breaking opening weekend… it’s no wonder there’s talk of another one coming out ASAP

odessa steps magazine writes:  

Not only do people today seem to prefer the “wait for video” because of timeliness, but that’s just one of the factors.

More and more, it seems that people dislike the actual theater-going experience, be it ticket prices, noisy patrons or just going out to the movies.

With people have 40-inch + HDTVs at home, with super sound systems and all that jazz, is watching a movie at home really a drop in quality the way it was back in the 1980s?

I know I pretty only go to the theater when I want to see something I expect to be “great” or “interesting.” I mostly go to the arthouse these days, unless there’s something I wnat to specifically patronize, like Hellboy 2(of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I should have waited for DVD on that disappointing picture).

That said, I’ll go see Batman soon, once the crowds have died down.

James Schee writes:  

Jim, I guess for me I was expecting him to be more chaotic if he was that against order and plans. Heck his plans seemed more complicated than the heroes at times.

I wonder if waiting for the DVD over theater is because how less specialy the theater experience is now? I mean you go now and you have commercials just like at the house. The previews tend to be ones anyone with an internet connection has seen for months and it costs so much these days.

Plus its all become so homogenized, you can go to just about any theater in the country and you couldn’t tell from inside the difference.

I used to love going to my local theater that was locally owned and run. It was old and had a neat atmosphere. Then the man who ran it retired, and Fandango bought it out. Now its no different than the big multiplexes, heck worse as with the smaller setting (one theater only) you notice things like poor bathrooms, bad seats, and unclean look more.

Andrew writes:  

What will help TDK is people who have seen it like myself want to or have seen it multiple times and many people I know are planning on seeing it this coming weekend, while most people that saw Spiderman 3 told me to avoid the movie

Johanna writes:  

Those are excellent points, that repeat business will matter and the word of mouth on Dark Knight is very good.

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[…] The writer was interviewed at Publishers Weekly. I found it interesting that he points out how rare it is these days for DC to release original, non-continuity graphic novels — he’s right, they’ve backed away from the format after a number of earlier experiments. In this case, the driving force was the blockbuster movie. […]

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[…] Dark Knight Rises, the third in the most recent cinematic Batman trilogy (the one directed by Christopher Nolan), comes to Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on December 4. […]

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[…] because I find these spectaculars too dark for my taste. I don’t even recall if I ever saw The Dark Knight (because I was upset by Heath Ledger’s passing), and I was three years late on Batman Begins. […]

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[…] I still like the atmospheric music. I hadn’t realized I could sing along to most of the songs, still — but then, I owned the Music From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy cassette tape. Watching the movie again — which looks great, let me reiterate — was a fun reminder of what good comic movies looked like before we got the artistry and relative subtlety of things like The Avengers, Iron Man, or The Dark Knight. […]


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