Box Office Report

'Dark Knight' Nabs Biggest Debut Ever

Batman and the Joker led a record-breaking box-office weekend, which also featured a history-making performance by ''Mamma Mia!''

The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger | THE DARK KNIGHT Heath Ledger's Joker can take a victory lap after his film blew open the record book at the box office this weekend
THE DARK KNIGHT Heath Ledger's Joker can take a victory lap after his film blew open the record book at the box office this weekend

Holy blockbuster, Batman! The Dark Knight grossed a behemoth $155.3 million from Friday through Sunday, according to early estimates, to score the biggest three-day opening in box-office history, while leading the way on a weekend for the record books.

The second Batman movie from star Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan finished at No. 1 (as anticipated, duh!), and, assuming the early estimates hold, it set new standards in just about every category imaginable. It scored the biggest three-day opening weekend of all time (beating Spider-Man 3's $151.1 mil bow). It achieved the best opening day and single day in history ($66.4 mil, shattering Spider-Man 3's mark of $59.8 mil). It brought in the most money from Friday midnight shows of any release ever ($18.5 mil, passing Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith's $16.9 mil). It banked a record $6.2 mil from 94 IMAX venues over the weekend (Spider-Man 3 had the old record, $4.7 mil). And it did it all with the biggest theater count, 4,366 locations, of all time.

Oh, but for Bale, Nolan, costars Maggie Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger, Warner Bros., DC Comics, and everybody else involved (all of whom scored career-best bows, naturally), things get even better. The Dark Knight is already more than three-quarters of the way to passing the $205.3 mil that 2005's Batman Begins earned during its entire domestic run. This followup film also drew raves from ticket buyers, scoring a solid A CinemaScore review from a crowd that skewed slightly male and older. And if you add that to the critical coos that The Dark Knight had already been earning, as well as the fact that it's really the last mega-blockbuster movie to hit the multiplex this summer, the film should continue its remarkable run for weeks to come.

As it happened, The Dark Knight wasn't the only record breaker at the box office this weekend. By coming in at No. 2 with $27.6 mil, Mamma Mia! set a new mark for the biggest premiere ever for a movie musical, if that early estimate holds (Hairspray banked $27.5 mil on its first weekend a year ago). That total also passes the $27.5 mil that star Meryl Streep's The Devil Wears Prada earned in its debut two summers back, and it can be credited to the same crowd: older women. Yep, a whopping three-quarters of the film's audience was ladies, and 64 percent was over the age of 30. But they loved Mamma Mia!, and along with the few fellas who also came to see Pierce Brosnan in the Broadway adaptation, they gave it a nice A- CinemaScore grade.

Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight accounted for nearly 75 percent of all box-office revenue this weekend, so there was little money to go around for the rest of the movies in release. Hancock (No. 3) fell 56 percent to bank $14 mil. Journey to the Center of the Earth (No. 4) dropped an expected 43 percent to earn $11.9 mil. Hellboy II: The Golden Army fell a colossal 71 percent to earn just $10 mil, after bowing at No. 1 last time around. (That ranks among the 40 worst second-weekend declines in history, ouch!) And newcomer Space Chimps (No. 7) failed to take off, with a mere $7.4 mil.

The success stories continued in America's art houses where the Sundance thriller Transsiberian averaged a sweet $17,608 in two venues.

Overall, the cumulative box office set yet another record: The weekend's $253 mil total domestic gross was the biggest three-day sum in history (smashing the mark of $218 mil, from the first frame of July 2006, when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest led the way). Needless to say, the box office was up an eye-popping 64 percent from a year ago. And, needless to say, with Batman protecting them even more than before, everyone in Hollywood will sleep well tonight.

Originally posted Jul 20, 2008