"Dark Knight" debut seen topping $100 million

Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:50pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Batman movie "The Dark Knight" should soar into the box office stratosphere with its U.S. debut in a record number of theaters on Friday that could propel it past the $100 million mark on its opening weekend, industry watchers said.

Topping that blockbuster figure would push "Dark Knight" into rare air seen by only 10 other wide-release movies including "Spider-Man 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Already, advance ticket sales have resulted in the sell-out of nearly 1,000 showtimes, online ticket seller Fandango said.

"It's been a true phenomenon for us, we started to see interest as early as last year for this film," said Rick Butler, chief operating officer for Fandango.

Warner Bros., the unit of Time Warner Inc that is releasing "Dark Knight," said it will debut in 4,366 theaters, edging out the record of 4,362 theaters set by "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" with its 2007 opening. That movie raked in about $115 million on its debut weekend.

"Dark Knight" will hope to beat the record debut of Sony Pictures Entertainment's "Spider-Man 3" in 2007, which reached $151 million. Sony Pictures is part of Japanese electronics company Sony Corp.

In the No. 2 spot is the $135.6 million debut for 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," released by the film division of The Walt Disney Co.

"Certainly a $100-plus million opening weekend is in the cards," said Paul Dergarabedian, who heads box office tracker Media by Numbers. "I cannot imagine a movie that has been more highly anticipated than this one, at least in recent memory."   Continued...

<p>Actor Heath Ledger is shown in a scene in his role as The Joker in "The Dark Knight" in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters July 16, 2008. REUTERS/Warner Bros Studio/Handout</p>