"Dark Knight" set to open north of $100 million
By Carl DiOrio
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Overwhelmingly positive early reviews and buzz on Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker are producing some potentially batty forecasts for "The Dark Knight," which opens in North American theaters on Friday.
Yet there's just no denying that it will enjoy an impressive bow, likely in the low-$100 million range for the weekend.
Director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale reunite for the follow-up to 2005's "Batman Begins." That film opened on a Wednesday in mid-June, making $72.9 million during its first five days, of which $48.7 million came during the three-day weekend. It ended up with $205.3 million, the second-best performer in the "Batman" franchise after the original "Batman" in 1989 ($251.2 million).
But a couple of other comic book films might offer more meaningful metrics for the Caped Crusader's impending performance.
The smart money has "Dark Knight" debuting somewhere south of "Spider-Man 3" -- which unspooled to a record $151.1 million in May 2007 -- and north of "Iron Man," which opened in May this year with $102.1 million. The "Iron Man" tally included about $3.5 million from previews.
Warner Bros. hasn't offered previews on "Dark Knight," but exhibitors have gotten creative with their Friday showtimes. In addition to thousands of venues scheduling 12:01 a.m. showtimes, scores of theaters have programmed the Batman film for 6 a.m. Friday slots and the like.
Warners staged a Monday premiere of the film in New York -- inspiration for the comic book's Gotham City setting -- and another one Wednesday in Chicago, where much of the film was shot.
The film's more than 4,366 domestic playdates is a record, surpassing the 4,362 theaters for May 2007's bow of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." Double- and triple-screening at many venues means "Dark Knight" will play on 9,200 screens in the U.S. and Canada. Continued...