After its third weekend in theaters, The Dark Knight was not only number one again, (a rarity these days,) it now sits at number eight on the top ten all-time domestic box office earners. It’s made $393.75 million in seventeen days of release (as of Sunday August 3, 2008), and is currently sitting just below Spider-Man ($403.7 million), and should overtake the web slinger’s spot by the time you read this.

The Dark Knight has shattered nearly all records, including best midnight screening gross ($18.5 million); one-day opening gross ($67.1 million); opening weekend gross ($158.3 million); it hit $200 million in five days, $300 million in ten days; and it look like Bats is poised to hit $400 million in just eighteen days! (It took Shrek 2 forty-three days to bank that much.)

TDK may even pass the $500 million mark after next weekend, though the start of the 2008 Olympics might hurt it, along with Pineapple Express, which opens smartly on Wednesday, August 6. (Those August/Seth Rogan/Judd Apatow comedies tend to do really well.)

If The Dark Knight does pass $500 million, it has a real shot at beating Titanic, whose final domestic box office take was a monstrous $600.8 million. But that movie was number one at the box office for four months straight until it got knocked off by Lost in Space (and that’s about all LIS is really known for, since it was pretty lame.)

Anyway, there are several things that we can attribute to the success of TDK:

A) Batman has always been hot property. For those old enough to remember 1989, the Tim Burton film was a marketing hit, with the movie and merchandising combining for some $plendid returns.

B) TDK‘s ad campaign, which officially started in May of 2007 with an online viral marketing movement, featured a contest that revealed the horrifying visage of the Joker, and went on to arguably redefine the way movies are marketed from now on. (You’ve changed things, TDK, there’s no going back.)

C) A truly excellent film from Christopher Nolan, with an impeccable script by Nolan, his brother Jonathan and comic movie guru David S. Goyer. TDK has earned top marks from critics and audiences alike, (94% at Rotten Tomatoes,) and that combination, aided by good word-of-mouth and repeat viewings, usually results in a big winner. And since it’s still cheaper to go to the movies than, say, traveling (at least for now,) it’s no surprise that more people are going to the movies for their summer kicks. (Take a look at the $300 million+ grosses of the invincible Iron Man and Indiana Jones 4, if you want further proof that movies still rule the summer entertainment niche.)

D) Since TDK is hitting all four box office quadrants, (men and women, above and below the age of twenty-five,) it’s going to continue to be a hit. Women LOVE this movie, especially those in the coveted 18-34 bracket. My girlfriend Marina’s sister, Ericca, has seen it at least three times, (maybe four by now.) She even wears TDK shirts like I wear Iron Man shirts! And if you haven’t realized it yet: it’s women who tend to drive the box office (cough, Titanic, cough.

Lastly, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman and the other stars of TDK are, generally speaking, popular actors. (Not you though, Eric Roberts.) And yes, Heath Ledgers’ unfortunate death also comes into play; however I think more audience members are being mesmerized by his amazing performance as the Joker, (Jack who?), and that’s the real reason they’re returning for second, third, or fourth viewings: they need more Heath.

Internationally, the movie stands at $202.5 million, with more territories for it to open in. It has made nearly $600 million so far, worldwide.

I’ll update again in a week or two, as TDK continues plowing through records. There are other films it’s beaten out, but I just don’t have room to name them all!

Check out our previous Dark Knight coverage to get the full scoop on this cinematic phenomenon. And keep in mind, by the way, that Batman Begins only made $205 million domestically, and it took about two months to do it! (Talk about the right kind of e$calation!)

Source: Box Office Mojo, Yahoo! News