Weekend Wrap-Up

Dark Knight Biggest Opener Ever

By John Hamann

July 20, 2008

At this point, Warner Bros. does have money to burn.

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Reviews were another big factor in The Dark Knight's opening weekend onslaught. Like Iron Man, The Dark Knight broke into a realm not usually seen for a superhero in terms of reviews. Iron Man managed to finish with a 93% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes, but like the opening weekend gross, The Dark Knight did even better. At RottenTomatoes, 194 reviews were counted, and of them, only 12 were negative. That gives The Dark Knight a 94% fresh rating, and it will easily be one of the best reviewed films of the year. Along with Iron Man and The Dark Knight, WALL-E was also 96% fresh - it‘s been a glorious summer for blockbusters.

Everything went right for The Dark Knight, except for the crushing loss of Heath Ledger. Leaving Oscar predictions by the wayside, Ledger, and the overall casting choices for The Dark Knight, make this franchise the cream of the crop in terms of superhero choices. Christopher Nolan's intention of surrounding Batman with fine actors has paid off brilliantly, as Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman reprised their roles, and new additions included accomplished indie veterans like Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart. For Ledger, this role would have turned him into one of the world's most bankable stars, as this gross is almost ten times bigger than his previous largest opening, A Knight's Tale (I'm counting The Patriot as a Mel Gibson movie), which opened to $16.5 million in 2001.

The Dark Knight, and films like it, give me hope for the future of movies. It is a good, solid story, and not afraid to show us the dark. Thanks to all of you for making this fable the biggest grosser of all time - you have redeemed my faith in the North American movie going public.


Does the rest of the top ten even matter? Surprisingly, Mamma Mia! was still very successfully counter-programmed against The Dark Knight, as those averse to dark morality tales found the light with Mamma Mia! The Meryl Streep musical (it's a strange weekend, isn't it?) earned a fantastic $27.6 million from 2,976 venues for Universal, proving once again the musical is alive and well. It had a very strong opening day, coming in just below $10 million, and is the second key reason why this is the biggest movie going weekend of all-time. Critics weren't overly impressed with this musical, as only half of the 121 critics at RottenTomatoes found something to like. It finished with a slightly negative rating of 54%. Mamma Mia! behaved a lot like Hairspray did last year, as that one opened to $27.7 million, also in late July. The cast, which includes Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Stellan Skaarsgard and Christine Baranski, and Mamma Mia! may find its way toward $100 million just like Hairspray did last year. Mamma Mia! will become the blueprint example of counter-programming, leaving Julia Robert's Notting Hill ($21.8 million versus the second weekend of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) in the dust.

Third spot goes to Will Smith's Hancock, but holdovers can only do so much against The Dark Knight. Hancock earned $14 million and was off 56%, a tough follow-up to the 49% drop it saw last weekend. While the weekend declines have been big, they won't stop Hancock from being Smith's fourth $200 million plus domestic earner, a total it should earn by next weekend. So far, Hancock has a running total of $191.5 million against a production budget of $150 million.

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