July 19, 2008 / 5:26 PM / 9 years ago

"Dark Knight" sets opening day box office record

<p>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.Warner Bros Studio/Handout</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," raked in $66.4 million in its opening day to set the single-day box office record, according to its distributor Warner Bros.

The Friday tally bests the $59.8 million set by "Spider-Man 3" at its opening last year.

The film will likely break the opening weekend record of $151.1 million set by the Spider-Man movie, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros.

"I don't see any reason why we are going to slow down," he said.

Fellman attributed the success to the unique vision of director Christopher Nolan and the "outstanding" performance of the late Australian actor Heath Ledger in what turned out to be his last completed screen role, as Batman's arch nemesis, the Joker.

<p>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.Warner Bros Studio/Handout</p>

"The Dark Knight," which cost about $180 million to produce, also picked up a record $18.5 million in sales of tickets for preview screenings ahead of its official opening.

The five previous Batman movies released by Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner Inc, had an average opening gross of $47 million.

Those films collectively have amassed over $1.6 billion in ticket sales worldwide since 1989, according to box office tracking service Media By Numbers.

The last Batman movie, 2005's "Batman Begins," grossed nearly $49 million its first weekend in North America and went on to collect about $372 million worldwide.

"The Dark Knight," picking up where that film left off, reunites director Nolan and star Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader and features Ledger as the Joker.

Only 10 other movies have managed to cross the $100 million domestic box-office mark in their first weekends, led by "Spider-Man 3" with $151 million in May 2007 and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" with $135.6 million in 2006, the biggest July opening on record.

Reporting by Deena Beasley, editing by Vicki Allen

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