"Dark Knight Rises" ends Batman franchise for Warner

Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:30pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The release of Warner Bros.' movie "The Dark Knight Rises" brings to an end one of Hollywood's most enduring franchises, as the studio searches to find a new one capable of matching Batman's box office success.

Forecasts for opening weekend ticket sales were thrown into doubt after a shooting in Colorado on Friday at a midnight screening of the film. Twelve people were killed.

Warner Bros. said in a statement that the studio was "deeply saddened" by the incident and extended sympathy to the families of the victims.

New York City planned to deploy police officers at screenings of the film, and theaters nationwide began reviewing and tightening security.

Hollywood box office watchers said the movie industry had never faced a situation like this. "This is a tragic and unprecedented event," said Paul Dergarabedian, box office watcher for Hollywood.com.

The Time Warner-owned studio has been Hollywood's King of Franchises for years. Over the last decade it generated worldwide ticket sales of $12 billion from its "Lord of the Rings," "Batman," and "Harry Potter" films.

Eight of the 20 highest-grossing films of all time come from one of those franchises, according to website Box Office Mojo.

"The Dark Knight Rises" will be the last of the Batman series that began in 2005, director Christopher Nolan said.   Continued...

A scene from "The Dark Knight Rises". REUTERS/Warner Bros.