Box Office: The Dark Knight Weekend Take $155.3 million

Okay, so $155.3 million is about $45 million less than my grand prediction of $200 million or more, but it’s still a lot. It easily makes “The Dark Knight” the biggest opener in 2008, easily beating out “Iron Man’s” $100 million and change debut. The weekend tally was also good enough to surpass the $151.1 million record over 3-days held by “Spider-Man 3” from last year, although final numbers released on Monday will let us know just how much Batman beat up Spider-Man in the numbers game. The $151.1 million is, of course, just studio estimates, and as we all know, studios tend to be optimistic about their film’s opening numbers. I believe they call it “spin” in political circles.

But Warner Bros. isn’t telling you the whole story. Beyond the hype, there’s this cold water fact from the AP, who breaks down the “Dark Knight” vs. “Spider-Man 3” comparison:

Factoring in higher admission prices, however, “Spider-Man 3” may have sold slightly more tickets than “The Dark Knight.”

At 2007’s average price of $6.88, “Spider-Man 3” sold 21.96 million tickets over opening weekend. Box office tracker Media By Numbers estimates today’s average movie prices at $7.08, which means “The Dark Knight” would have sold 21.94 million tickets.

The movie’s release was preceded by months of buzz and speculation over the performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, Batman’s nemesis. Ledger, who died in January from an accidental prescription-drug overdose, played the Joker as a demonic presence, his performance prompting predictions that the role might earn him a posthumous Academy Award nomination.

“The Dark Knight,” which cost $185 million to make, also broke the “Spider-Man 3” record for best debut in IMAX large-screen theaters with $6.2 million. “Spider-Man 3” opened with $4.7 million in IMAX cinemas.

But we would be remiss if we didn’t factor in “The Dark Knight’s” $185 million budget as compared to Sam Raimi’s extremely self-indulgent $258 million budget. But of course, despite poor reviews, “Spider-Man 3” eventually went on to earn $891 million dollars worldwide, more than justifying its high price tag.

“The Dark Knight” should do just as well — that is, unless its much ballyhooed dark tones turn off your average Ma and Pa Moviegoer, in which case Batman’s crusade against crime may have seen its biggest weekend. No doubt the film will be profitable, but will it have legs? As we already learned with “The Incredible Hulk”, pre-debut hype has a way of kicking a movie in the ass.

But of course, whereas “Spider-Man 3” left a lot of bitter taste in people’s mouths after walking out of the theater (or in “The Incredible Hulk’s” case, a lot of “bleh” taste), the general consensus regarding “The Dark Knight” seems to be that it does, indeed, not only lives up to the hype, but actually exceeds it.

The Dark Knight Box Office