Daily Box Office Analysis for July 21, 2008
By David Mumpower
July 22, 2008

Doesn't he look like a puppy in a car here? A filthy-haired, homicidal puppy.

I'm guessing none of you is reading this in anticipation of heady discussion about Space Chimps or Mamma Mia! If you are into monkeys and ABBA, I am afraid this column is going to disappoint you. The subject of the week is The Dark Knight, and its performance to date is the most dramatic in the modern box office era. That fact was driven home long before Monday's box office results were announced by Warner Bros. Let's quickly review some amazing aspects of The Dark Knight's first three days in release.

As chronicled by John Hamann in his Weekend Wrap-Up, the movie had the largest amount of revenue from midnight exhibitions ever, the biggest single day of box office ever, and the largest opening weekend total ever. Obviously, anyone who understands the history of movie revenue can nitpick the point that The Dark Knight has not sold the most tickets for an opening weekend release. In the 1930s and 1940s, movie going was a ubiquitous aspect of culture in the days before television became a mass consumption electronics device. If you want to argue that The Dark Knight is no Gone With the Wind, you would be technically correct, but unless you are in your seventies (hi mom and dad!), I don't understand why you would be making such a distinction.

The fact of the matter is that we are concerned with the here and now, relatively speaking. Box office revenues were not carefully maintained in the era prior to home computers, meaning that all the data prior to the 1980s is a bit shaky in terms of reliability. So, we all make the tacit acknowledgement that when we discuss records such as biggest day, biggest weekend and the like, the period of relevance is roughly the past three decades. And among those 15,000 or so titles, The Dark Knight has just shredded records all over the place. Let's quickly examine the important ones before we evaluate its Monday performance.

The Dark Knight's actual Friday performance was $67,165,092, a full 12.2% more than the previous record of $59,841,919 that Spider-Man accrued on May 4, 2007. If you want to know how individual ticket sales match up, approximately 9.49 million saw Batman last Friday as opposed to roughly 8.70 million for Spidey last May. The 20 cents worth of ticket price inflation over the past 14 months had some folks saying that the most recent Spider-Man film actually sold more tickets than Batman. This was clearly not true in terms of their first days. With regards to the weekends, here is what you need to know. The Dark Knight's $158,411,483 represents about 22.37 million worth of tickets sold. Spider-Man 3's $151,116,516 came through about 21.96 million in ticket sold. Batman has beaten Spider-Man. It's that simple.

In terms of other impressive box office feats, The Dark Knight also became the widest opener of all time with 4,366 play dates. It is obviously the biggest comic book adaptation opening as well now, which in this day and age seems to be the same thing as the biggest overall opener. When we try to describe the impressiveness of the performance, however, it is hard to visualize just how much money this movie made in its first three days. Consider that Wanted, Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Incredible Hulk all had opening weekends that were considered successful. Hulk was the largest of the three comic book movies in terms of opening weekend results with $55,414,050 while Wanted was next with $50,927,085 and Hellboy earned a solid $34,539,115. Combining those three opening weekends gives us an overall box office total of $140,880,250. The Dark Knight has beaten the three totals put together by 12.4%.

Equally impressive is the thought that the latest Batman movie has already surpassed all three of these titles in terms of total box office after only three days. In fact, the latest Batman title is already the number six movie of the year and will pass Hancock and WALL-E to enter the top four at some point this afternoon. It will pass Kung Fu Panda's current total of $206,898,748 by either tonight or the first exhibitions tomorrow for third place.

Of course, if you are looking at the totals at the most recent totals for Hancock and WALL-E, you are probably a bit confused as to how this has happened so fast. After Saturday, The Dark Knight's box office was at $114,815,332. Movies are supposed to slow down 25% on Sunday and then fall off another 50% on Monday. This is especially true of larger scale releases. Consider that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest fell 20.4% on its first Sunday to 35,360,729 then fell another 48.7% on Monday to $18,140,271. That was a solid performance. Spider-Man 3, a film that was released prior to kids being out of school for the summer, fell 22.2% to $39,937,865 on Sunday then had a 74.3% drop on its first Monday (a school day) to $10,285,268. Even the leggiest film in recent memory, Shrek 2, fell 22.1% to $34,900,541 on its first Sunday then declined 67.0% to $11,512,000 on its first Monday. This is how the system is supposed to work. Someone needs to tell The Dark Knight this, because it's blowing the curve.

On Sunday, the sequel to Batman Begins fell only 8.5% to $43,596,151. This is an "I did a double-take" type of number. In addition to claiming the biggest opening day performance ever, The Dark Knight now holds the record for biggest Sunday ever...by $3,658,286. It is also the only opening weekend title to have three consecutive $40+ million days, which is a pretty big deal when we consider that there have only been 18 of those in history. What we have gleaned from this data is that there has been no indication to date that the demand for The Dark Knight is starting to slow down. A record-setting Sunday disproves any notion of frontloading, at least thus far. In tracking daily numbers, what we will be examining is any tell-tale sign of slippage such as the one last week that let us know Hellboy II wouldn't around for long or the one a few weeks ago that showed The Incredible Hulk wasn't going to do any better than The Hulk did.

We did not get any such sign yesterday.

The Dark Knight earned $24,493,313 on Monday, the biggest non-holiday inflated Monday ever. It is also the fourth largest Monday overall behind a couple of Memorial Day releases (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) and a July 5th showing of Spider-Man 2. Those of you who have been reading this column all summer may remember a statement I made a while ago about how to gauge the strength of weekday box office. The exact quote was, "Anything over $20 million is pretty strong." The Dark Knight's Monday revenue total individually surpasses all but four combined top ten weekdays this entire summer. Folks, that's scorching. The comic book adaptation is down only 43.8% from Sunday's record-setting total. I'm going to run out of superlatives quite quickly as I attempt to keep this in perspective. Long story short, it should have fallen a lot more yesterday and it should have dropped leaps and bounds more on Sunday.

For perspective, consider the fact that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End fell 9.5% to $34,121,377 on its first Sunday...and that was over Memorial Day weekend, meaning its Sunday was holiday inflated. Then, it fell 26.5% to $25,069,370 on its first Monday, Memorial Day. The Dark Knight has almost matched that result with larger scale numbers (it has earned roughly $42 million more than At World's End in the same Friday-to-Monday period) sans the benefit of holiday box office inflation. As a point of consideration about the explosive box office performance we are witnessing, consider this. If we take out The Dark Knight's record-setting Friday performance, its next three days still total combined receipts of $115,739,704, a total surpassing Spider-Man's 2002 record-setting opening weekend of $114,844,116. The Dark Knight's Saturday-to-Monday total would be the fifth largest opening ever and this sublime performance comes on the heels of the biggest box office day on record.

The Dark Knight is a foregone conclusion to become the fastest movie to $200 million, a feat it may accomplish tomorrow. Were that to occur, it would break the record by a full three days, from eight all the way down to five. Just to give you some perspective on how much of a runaway train its Sunday/Monday has been, the other five largest openings of all-time are the afore-mentioned Spider-Man, Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, and Shrek the Third. After four days in theaters, Spider-Man's box office tally was $125,878,901. Spider-Man 3 was at $161,401,784, Pirates 2 was at $153,774,825, Pirates 3 was at $153,042,234 (including the Thursday sneaks), and Shrek the Third was at $132,168,748. The Dark Knight is at $182,904,796. Just take a moment to look at those numbers again. There are only 28 films in box office history that have earned $300+ million domestically. I just listed five of them. None of these is within $20 million of Heath Ledger's last movie after its first four days in release. The Dark Knight is a juggernaut to a historically unprecedented degree.

Combined box office receipts for the top ten tallied $36,978,264. Yes, this is the biggest weekday of the summer. It also means The Dark Knight earned $24,493,313 while the other nine films managed roughly half of that at $12,484,951. If you go to a movie theater right now and order a ticket for something other than The Dark Knight, the vendor will look at you funny.