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Weekend Box Office: 'The Dark Knight Rises' Bound For Largest 2D Opening In Box Office History In Wake Of Tragedy

Box Office
by Gabe Toro
July 22, 2012 3:22 PM
21 Comments
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When discussing the box office, we try to emphasize weekly that there are always more significant issues than the amount of money a movie makes. Usually, it's the quality of the films themselves. This weekend, it is the horrifying loss of life in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shooting. We at The Playlist hope and pray for those directly affected by the tragedy, hoping that our readers are on the same page regarding what we're about to discuss -- simple numbers, nothing more.

Warner Bros. is declining to release official estimates for the weekend until Monday, though it appears the planned record-breaking weekend was slowed down somewhat by the terrible news (though it's really almost impossible to quantify). "The Dark Knight Rises" will likely still finish north of its predecessor "The Dark Knight" for its first weekend, with receipts totaling $161 million, possibly more. This is based on a Friday gross in the neighborhood of $77 million, the third largest Friday in box office history. However, it's likely many weekend audiences second-guessed their plans following the Aurora tragedy, leading to deflated numbers after a spectacular Thursday night ($30 million, below only the unprecedented, 3D-enhanced $43 million midnights for the final "Harry Potter") suggested the all-time record held by "The Avengers" would be surpassed.

The question with "The Dark Knight Rises" has always been whether there were audience members who didn't pay to see "The Avengers" and were instead saving their cash for final lap of the trilogy. While there's tremendous overlap in regards to the superhero franchises, the Batman pic tends to skew older. If Warner Bros. was hoping to surpass the Marvel hit, they would need much stronger attendance numbers, especially since "Avengers" benefited from augmented 3D prices.

However, box office would-be history has become a footnote this weekend. With news coverage of the shooting, Warner Bros. pulled TV ads for "The Dark Knight Rises," absorbing at least $3-$5 million in lost ad time. A cancellation of the film's international press tour will also affect the picture's exposure, though you'll probably see the effect during the weekend in person. "The Dark Knight Rises" had set pre-sale records, to the point where among this weekend's no-shows were those who had already given the film their money. Through no fault of its own, "The Dark Knight Rises" may fail to achieve top-dog box office fame, and may settle instead into real-life infamy.

Of course, box office record discussion aside, Christopher Nolan's opus still cost around $250 million, so it needed/expected a big opening, and the second-biggest opening weekend in box office history (or even third, if it cannot surpass the $169 million of the final "Potter") is still a notable success. "The Dark Knight" managed to coast after its massive opening, effectively ruling the rest of the summer, and when scuttlebutt over this film's (clearly nonexistent) role in this disaster settles, it's possible this entry will do the same. A tragedy like this one is more likely to keep moviegoing audiences away from the "Total Recall" remake than "The Dark Knight Rises," if you get what we're saying. 

Which means that, if we were in a bubble, it's business as usual as Hollywood. None of those involved in this film had much to gain aside from a slight boost in profile, though Warner Bros. gets to count the profits. But we're not in a bubble. And as much as this terrible situation was the result of one person who failed to distinguish reality from his own perverse fantasies, it can't help but weigh on the conscience of Nolan and those responsible for producing the critically loved film.

Given that Warner Bros. performed their due diligence in hyping the film through pervasive ads, all emphasizing the gravity of the picture's storyline (involving a murderous terrorist in a gas mask -- well-armed imbeciles, take note), the Aurora shooting could usher in a new box office environment, where advertising isn't so pervasive, where midnight screenings aren't mandatory for every big release, and, by extension, where opening weekend numbers no longer matter quite so much, in turn giving films a greater shelf life, and allowing more opportunities for them to be discussed, unpacked, observed. But, let's face it, that's very unlikely to transpire. That said, understanding how art reflects and refracts life, and doesn't directly replicate it, will go a long way towards ensuring that this is a better, more articulate and informed society where such ghastly behavior no longer occurs.

With studios originally attempting to avoid "The Dark Knight Rises," there were no other releases scheduled for this weekend, though a gaggle of films hoped to benefit from spillover. Chief amongst them was "Ice Age: Continental Drift," which should bring in half its opening weekend tally, finishing the three days at or around $90 million, with weekday business for the kidflick able to push the sequel into the territory of the first three "Ice Age" entries. Though the film is fast approaching $500 million global, its domestic take could end up being less than a quarter of its total gross.

With further territories to go, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is also likely to post robust worldwide numbers in comparison to its predecessors. Domestically, however, it may need a push to eclipse $300 million, a figure the first three accomplished with ease. Finishing at $250-$275 million should be enough to lift the worldwide tally, which is likely to approach $800 million global, outdoing at least the second film from a worldwide perspective. There's nothing in these numbers suggesting Sony won't hold on to the May 2nd, 2014 release date for the sequel.

Surprisingly, the weekend numbers are very close for "Spider-Man" and a film that likely cost $200 million less, "Ted." Though actually expensive for mainstream comedy standards ($50 million or so before p+a) "Ted" looks like a sure bet to crest $200 million domestic, and this week it should surpass "The Perfect Storm" to be the biggest film in Mark Wahlberg's CV. Rounding out the top five, "Brave" should pass the domestic gross for "Ratatouille" this weekend, officially becoming Pixar's tenth $200 million domestic grosser.

"Magic Mike" danced its way past $100 million this weekend, while "Savages" winds down, the latter finishing with a total of around $50 million domestic. Playing out the string was "Madea's Witness Protection" and the latest "Madagascar," with "Moonrise Kingdom" aiming for a $40-$45 million total, the second highest grossing film of Wes Anderson's directing career.

Update: Full top 10 numbers are in.

1. "The Dark Knight Rises" - $160.89 million
2. "Ice Age: Continental Drift" - $20.4 million ($88.8 million domestically)
3."The Amazing Spider-Man" - $10.8 million ($228.6 million domestically)
4."Ted" - $10.01 million ($180.4 million domestically)
5."Brave" - $6 million ($208.77 million domestically)
6. "Magic Mike" - $4.2 million ($101.9 million domestically)
7."Savages" - $3.4 million ($40 million domestically)
8."Madea's Witness Protection" - $2.25 million ($60.2 million domestically)
9. "Moonrise Kingdom" - $1.83 million ($36 million domestically)
10. "To Rome With Love" - $1.42 million ($11.1 million domestically)

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21 Comments

  • jimmiescoffee | July 23, 2012 8:58 AMReply

    a 3 hour, 2d film made 180 million with a deadly, horrible shooting as a backdrop? best opening weekend ever. no question.

  • Homer | July 23, 2012 8:47 AMReply

    How much repeat value does TDKR have? I haven't seen it, so can't comment but I wonder if as many people who went to see The Avengers multiple times would do the same for TDKR, especially after the tragedy at the weekend. Word of mouth seems especially mixed, and I would suspect the momentum TDK enjoyed week after week after release, will be missing this time round with TDKR. Massive opening sure. Sustainability at the box office? Another question entirely.

  • oogle monster | July 23, 2012 12:43 PM

    An A cinema score would beg to differ.

  • Shy | July 23, 2012 8:40 AMReply

    This was never going to break the Avengers' record. All level-headed estimates before release were projecting 170-190 mil, still below the 207mil record set this summer. I find it annoying how people are trying to hang the lower numbers on the tragedy, when the bottom-line is over-excited fanboys were expecting ridiculous numbers that just wasn't going to materialise. Some were saying this would top 220million! Ridiculous.

  • Harry | July 23, 2012 6:13 AMReply

    Good article, gabe.

  • YOLO | July 22, 2012 8:49 PMReply

    I'm confused, the title of this article infers that the film did achieve BO infamy but then a line in the article explicitly states that it doesn't. Someone explain, please?

  • jon | July 24, 2012 12:36 AM

    The title is correct It's the biggest 2d opening ever. 3rd highest behind HP and the avengers they had 3d though.

  • Mike | July 22, 2012 7:36 PMReply

    There's no real way to quantify the effect of Friday's tragic events, but this was never going to break The Avengers' record, anyone who thought it possible wasn't looking logically at the box office and the market. The Dark Knight had the perfect storm of a year of pitch-perfect marketing, 3 years of building respect from Batman Begins & the also unquantifiable effect of the buzz added from Ledger's performance and death. TDKR was obviously hotly anticipated, but it wasn't the surprise breakthrough the previous one was and had weaker marketing and no curiosity-piquing headlines (sadly it does now) & was always going to slip from it's predecessor in total, though it may have managed to top TDK by a lot more in its opening just because of how much further the midnight movie and frontloaded opening trend has pushed in the past 4 years. Throw in the fact that it's playing in 80% of all movie theaters in North America, but more screens are still contractually bound to competing movies than the leftovers from the spring that The Avengers faced, TDKR has a runtime nearly 30 minutes longer making fewer screenings possible per day, and how much more family friendly The Avengers is & finally, the fact that its average ticket price would be slightly lower because of the availability of the 3D option for the Avengers. Plus, TA was an even bigger 'perfect storm' than The Dark Knight, the culmination of the building of 4 separate franchises into one behemoth of a movie. I was saying all along that if it matched TDK with inflation (~$175m now) it would be a huge opening. It may have gotten close to that without the shooting, but it was never going north of $200m.

  • Knative | July 23, 2012 12:03 AM

    Well, it was tracking like it could get that high. It has a cinemascore or whatever of A, so people really like it . It managed the 3rd largest Friday, even after news broke of the shooting. I frankly don't know what is sensational about this article either. You reply reads like you are gloating that you were correct all along, which seems kind of douchey.

  • Mike | July 22, 2012 11:00 PM

    My point is that articles like this that imply that it would have taken the record are off base, it isn't about 'being right' it's about calling people out for being callous and sensational with the facts that this movie went into it's release with.

  • Knative | July 22, 2012 8:30 PM

    I guess I don't understand why people still want to be right about this. You don't know what would have happened without the shooting. The shooting kind of makes this discussion gross anyway. I mean, who cares how much the movie could have made?

  • Mike | July 22, 2012 7:38 PM

    Also, the $30m midnight number didn't imply it was headed to $200m either, again once things are further anticipated by years of waiting and the finale factor (or the rush-out fanbase that Twilight has) the midnight numbers become a much bigger percentage of the total opening, just look at the final Harry Potter film, it did $43m at midnight out of a total of $170m for the weekend.

  • Joe | July 22, 2012 7:06 PMReply

    Any article that starts out with ... "When discussing the box office, we try to emphasize weekly that there are always more significant issues than the amount of money a movie makes" tells me all I need to know. The return is nowhere near as much as they were expecting. Granted the tragic circumstances had something to do with it. I just don't see this movie surpassing Dark Knight for one reason.... no Heath Ledger. Nuff Said.

  • Wash | July 22, 2012 7:45 PM

    Um... but it could / probably will surpass Dark Knight, at least in opening numbers. . . Nuff Said.

  • Knative | July 22, 2012 7:41 PM

    The shooting had everything to do with it. It's a story as big as Columbine, maybe bigger because the killer is still alive and that means there will be a trial with massive media coverage. The demand and hype for this movie were huge. People don't want to go to a movie thinking that they will be victims of a terror attack. Also mass shootings dampen people's enthusiasfor things associated with them.

  • Daniel | July 22, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    Why the hell would audiences rather stay away from Total Recall? That makes no sense whatsoever. If they're not gonna stay away from Dark Knight Rises, they're not gonna stay away from anything else either.

    God, do you have to sink so low that you even use a tragedy to get a dig in at Total Recall?

  • Joe | July 26, 2012 2:09 PM

    "Dude, chill out and control your anger. I think what Toro is saying is that many moviegoers are hesitant to go into a dark theatre after this past weeks event."

    He was right. That comment in the article was idiotic and stupid. The tragedy was perpetrated at a Dark Knight premiere, by a guy pretending to be a Dark Knight character, or at least he called himself the joker. I'd be far more concerned about going to another Dark Knight viewing than I would about going to see Total Recall.

    I have no idea what Total Recall will do. The trailers kick ass. Whether the movie will, who knows? But the comment was nothing more than a dig at Total Recall by the author, who obviously has a problem with that film for some reason, probably because of some misplaced loyalty to the highly overrated original.

  • Knative | July 23, 2012 12:08 AM

    Terrorism is statistical way unlikely and not that big of a risk. Didn't stop our government from pissing on the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution. People are irrational.

  • AS | July 22, 2012 8:54 PM

    @Jesse - See, this BS notion of the "copycat" killer has no basis in reality. This is an invention of the media for the sole purpose of generating ratings and I'm sad that you've let it invade your thought process. After the Zodiac killings, did anyone go "oh man, I have to kill a bunch of people too"? No. After Columbine, did a wave of high school students go "hey! There's an idea! How about I shoot up my school!"? No. Since Friday, has there been anymore theater shootings? No. And there won't be. Don't let fear mongering control your life.

  • He doesn't get it | July 22, 2012 4:48 PM

    well...

  • jesse | July 22, 2012 4:45 PM

    Dude, chill out and control your anger.
    I think what Toro is saying is that many moviegoers are hesitant to go into a dark theatre after this past weeks event. I, a cinephile, even questioned wether or not I should cancel my ticket for DKR. The question of 'what if someone decides to copy Holme's actions?' was very much in my head prior to stepping into the theatre.
    Now, I would imagine many people are still going to see DKR, a film many fans would consider worth facing their fears for, but Total Recall... meh, not so much.

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