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.

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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%.

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