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Knight of Box-Office Miracles
by Christopher Stone

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Heath Ledger gets the last laugh (and an Oscar?) as The Joker.

Heath Ledger gets the last laugh (and an Oscar?) as The Joker.
Just when we thought it was safe to anoint INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL the world's biggest summer box office news, THE DARK KNIGHT flies into theaters like a Batman out of hell to shatter records and make INDIE's anointment premature.

Just for openers (literally), THE DARK KNIGHT was record-setting even before its first unspooling. Warner Brothers opened the Christian Bale starrer on a record-smashing 3,366 screens four more screens than the previous record-holder, last summer's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END.

The next record fell in the Midnight hour. With $18.5 million from 3,040 screens, THE DARK KNIGHT set a new box-office record for midnight screenings. KNIGHT easily bested the previous Midnight Monster, STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. It midnight debuted in 2005, with a then record-setting $16.9 million ON 2,915 screens. And THE DARK KNIGHT'S midnight total doesn't include the mega-bucks
Bale out on bail after getting physical with Mum and Sis.

Bale out on bail after getting physical with Mum and Sis.
earned from 3 and 6 am showings on those 3040 screens.

It didn't take long for the next box office record to collapse before THE DARK KNIGHT juggernaut. Early Saturday, it was announced that this Batman noir had shattered the single day box office record, raking in an unprecedented $66.4 million on the first day of its release, besting SPIDERMAN 3, the previous record holder by more than $6 million. But the summer's box office miracle wasn't over yet.

Sunday, July 20, it was reported that THE DARK KNIGHT'S estimated weekend gross was a record-shattering $155.3 million. It gets better. When the estimate was finalized on Monday morning, Batman's actual haul was an even more impressive $158.3 million.

July 18-20 was a surreal weekend for the box office all around with a cumulative take of $250 million, another all-time record. Consider this: It took a scant 48 hours for THE DARK KNIGHT to be admitted into the elite Domestic $100 million
Streep Soars, but THE DARK KNIGHT TAKES IT ALL!

Streep Soars, but THE DARK KNIGHT TAKES IT ALL!
Club. And, in only ten days, Batman had entered that fraternity three times over.

Rain fell on THE (BATMAN) DARK KNIGHT Parade on Tuesday morning, July 22, with the announcement that Christian Bale (Batman) had been arrested in London for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister in a London hotel room on Sunday.

How could this happen? The Caped Crusader a mom beater? Perhaps "mum" had told Bale, "Heath Ledger is the only reason anyone went to see your fakokta (crazy/mixed up) movie!"

Later that same day, the storm clouds vanished, the world learning that Batman Bale was out on bail after giving his side of the assault story to investigating detectives. By then, THE DARK KNIGHT had reaped more than $225 million worldwide, and the stratosphere was again the limit for the Caped Crusader.

Batman's huge box office bite left the pickings slim for other attractions over the July 18-20 weekend. MAMA MIA! already a hit in other
Can THE DRAGON EMPEROR end THE DARK KNIGHT'S B.O. reign?

Can THE DRAGON EMPEROR end THE DARK KNIGHT'S B.O. reign?
English-speaking countries, was a pale second here, grossing a respectable, but unspectacular, $27.6 million. HANCOCK, the box-office's other super-hero, mustered only a less than super $14 million in its third frame.

BATMAN is among the box office's oldest viable franchises. Until THE DARK KNIGHT, The Caped Crusader hasn't generated the level of excitement we've seen with this fresh installment. Why the frenzy over this seventh installment? In two words, Heath Ledger. By dying before his time, and under mysterious circumstances, the star has acquired mythic, James Dean-like status. And it didn't hurt that advance word was that Ledger's cinematic swan song as The Joker was no laughing matter. Au contrare, most agree that it's Oscar-worthy.

Right now, a third Austin Powers opus may look pretty good to Mike Myers, but, overall, thanks to THE KNIGHT of Box-Office Miracles, you'll find few Hollywood insiders who are disappointed in the summertime box office.

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.


Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns


Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.


Contact
If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.


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