Dark Knight Biggest Opener Ever
By John Hamann
July 20, 2008
What a weekend this has been. The successor of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, took to the screens of a Gotham near you, and Heath Ledger's final flick ran roughshod over box office records, earning a never seen before $155.3 million over three days. Records fell like rain: biggest single day gross, largest amount of venues, biggest film for the month of July, biggest comic book adaptation, and the granddaddy of them all, biggest three-day opening. Whether you are a Bat-freak, a fan boy, or obsessed with box office, it was a truly awesome weekend.
The Dark Knight started its historic weekend in the dark, at midnight on Thursday, and ran successfully all night and into the sunrise at sold out 6 a.m. shows. It earned an insane $18.5 million from those overnight shows alone, eclipsing Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith's record of $16.9 million taken from the late, late, shows. The Christian Bale spectacular had just started mowing down records at that point, as it then claimed a Friday total of $66.4 million, obliterating fellow super-hero Spider-Man 3's opening day figure of $59.8 million by a full 11%. It was at this moment we knew that box office history was being re-written.
Spider-Man 3 held the three-day record opening gross of $151.1 million, earning $59.8 million on Friday, $51.3 million on Saturday, and $39.9 million on Sunday. That gave Spider-Man 3 an internal multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross, and the barometer of weekend box office) of 2.53. If The Dark Knight were to achieve the same multiplier, the weekend gross would come in at $168 million. However, with the difference in the calendar (Spider-Man 3 opened in May when school was in, which hampered its Friday somewhat), the multiplier had to be dialed back. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, with its $135.6 million opening in July, had an internal multiplier of 2.43, which, if repeated by The Dark Knight, would mean a weekend gross of $161 million. These two facts indicate that if the Friday estimate was solid, all Warner Bros. needed to break the three-day record was a multiplier of 2.27, a number it would have no problem beating.
Have I mentioned that this is a truly special weekend? The all-time three-day box office record is now owned by The Dark Knight, the Warner Bros. follow-up to Batman Begins. The new number to remember is $155.3 million, as The Dark Knight followed its $66.4 million Friday with $89 million on Saturday and Sunday. Actuals will be released on Monday, which should confirm these totals. Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean can only look on in awe, as the Caped Crusader rewrites the record book. The Dark Knight also broke a record for size of release, opening at 4,366 venues, and earning an average of $35,579. The previous record holder was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with 4,362 venues.
So, is Heath Ledger's death the reason why The Dark Knight is the biggest weekend earner ever? I would say it's a factor, but it's not the driving reason. It's important to remember that The Dark Knight had many of the same things going for it that Iron Man had, except for Ledger and one more big factor. Batman Begins reset the Batman franchise in such a way that it opened the door for uber-blockbuster status for its sequels. Batman Begins opened to $48.5 million in June 2005, and earned $72.9 million over its first five days. It earned $205 million at the domestic box office and $372 million worldwide. The DVD also had a phenomenal run, topping sales and rental charts in October 2005, and then re-ascending those charts this week with a DVD re-release. This latest version debuted at number one for Blu-Ray sales, and number two for regular DVD, which shone a light on the hype and anticipation for Friday's opening of The Dark Knight. Had Ledger not passed, this opening would still rival Iron Man and Indiana Jones for the best of the summer; however, Ledger's death brought out an even bigger audience for The Dark Knight, putting it over the top in terms of box office dollars.