Stephen Vaughan
Joshua Rich
July 19, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Dark Knight has been in theaters for less than 24 hours, but it’s already a record breaker. The second Batman movie from star Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan set a new mark for money earned in midnight showings when it grossed $18.5 million early Friday. That total comprises revenues generated from the almost universally sold-out screenings that took place in 3,040 venues around the country at 12:01 a.m. The previous record holder, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, banked $16.9 mil from its first midnight playdates.

This initial result further underscores just how big The Dark Knight‘s opening weekend is expected to be. The film is anticipated to earn well over $100 mil during its first three days; it could sport the best debut ever for a Batman movie (passing Batman Forever‘s $52.8 mil mark) by the end of Friday alone. Check back on all weekend for more updates.

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