Update: The Dark Knight shatters box office records

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Burbank (CA) - Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Dark Knight set several new box office records during its opening weekend: The latest Batman movie had the biggest opening day, the biggest opening weekend and drove overall Hollywood box office weekend sales of the top 12 titles above a quarter of a billion dollars for the first time.

On Saturday, Warner Bros. head of distribution Dan Fellman reported that The Dark Knight broke the record for a 12:01 a.m. film opening, hauling in $18,489,000 for the first showings alone (the previous record holder Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith brought $16.9 million). That number was later updated to first day earnings of $66.4 million, sailing past the $59.8 million record set by Spider-Man 3 last year.

The record pace continued throughout the weekend with Saturday ticket sales of about $48.0 million and estimated Sunday sales of about $38.9 million resulting in total sales $155.3 million. That number is slightly better than Spider-Man 3’s $151.1 million. An Associated Press article, however, noted that Spider-Man 3 may have sold more tickets than The Dark Night, due to an increase in ticket prices: The average movie ticket price was $6.88 in 2007, translating into about 21.96 million tickets for Spider-Man 3, while 2008 ticket prices are $7.08, which indicates that The Dark Knight ticket sales should be around 21.94 million.

Including $40 million of international box office sales, The Dark Knight sales have already exceeded the movie’s estimated production cost of $185 million.      

“We have been thrilled by the response to The Dark Knight, first from the critics and now from audiences. From our earliest screenings, the buzz on the film has been white hot and it hasn’t let up,” Fellman said.

Total U.S. box office sales for the weekend were about $255 million for the top 12 movies, which bests the weekend of July 7, 2006 during which Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest drove box office sales to $218 million.

The Abba musical Mamma Mia! came in second this weekend with sales of $27.6 million, which made the movie the highest grossing musical ever. Hancock was listed third with $14 million, Journey to the Center of the Earth fourth with $11.9 million and Hellboy II: The Golden Army fifth with $10.0 million.