Dark Knight Box Office Hysteria

Call me a naysayer, the devil's advocate or whatever.

There's a major case of online movie website hysteria sweeping the internet. Everyone is falling all over themselves talking about how The Dark Knight is going to break box office records. A month ago we wrote that we believed that The Dark Knight would most likely gross about $80 million on its opening weekend and we took more than a little heat for it. Of course that was before the Warner Bros. marketing machine went into warp-overdrive over the last couple of weeks.

Now the debate seems to be whether it will bring in "only" $130MM or whether it will beat the record held by Spider-Man 3: a $151 million opening weekend.

I'm no box office pundit and believe me, I want this film to do great. I've seen it (review coming late Thursday) and it's not like any superhero movie that's come before it. If you think that Hellboy or Spider-Man 3 are dark, you've got a whole 'nother level of pitch black headed your way with The Dark Knight.

There are people who know far more than I do who are predicting $130 million this weekend. But gasoline is being poured on the box office prediction fire by online ticket site, which is sending out all kinds of pre-sales stats saying the movie is outselling Spider-Man 3 two to one at this point in the sales cycle. They also released today the fact that 700 performances of The Dark Knight have sold out already.

Wow! 700 performances! That's a lot, right?

Well, maybe... maybe not.

According to, about 40% of people they surveyed plan on watching the film in IMAX and about 40% plan on seeing the film at a Thursday night midnight screening. Do you know how many IMAX theaters across the entire country will be showing The Dark Knight?

Ninety-four. Yup, that's 94 IMAX theaters in the entire United States.

I'll bet at least half of those sold out performances are IMAX showings. IMAX is finally starting to be recognized more widely as an awesome format for movies and people want to see this hype-laden blockbuster in that format if possible. The buzz is on about how those theaters are adding showings all through the night - now you can see why.

Across all theaters, The Dark Knight is showing on 1500 screens, but are regular theaters having to add 3AM showings? If anyone has any figures on this, please add them below. I'm thinking all this pre-sale hysteria is:

  1. People who can't wait and want to see it first.
  2. People who want to see it in IMAX know there's a limited number of seats.
  3. People who due to the first two items are afraid it WILL sell out completely this weekend and they'll have to wait to see the movie.

Yes, it's an amazing film - no doubt about it, but it's NOT your typical superhero movie. I'm not saying that's BAD, I'm just saying I don't know how it will "play in Peoria." This film is closer in spirit to New York City cop/crime dramas like The Departed than it is to Spider-Man. Does the "Batman crowd" turn out to see crime dramas? I don't know.

And I'm going to refer back to the previous post regarding the power of parents bringing kids to movies: With this one it ain't gonna happen (or at least, it shouldn't - this movie really pushes PG-13 right past the line into an R-rating IMHO). So it's up to the single folks to push this one into the stratosphere. Then again, Hancock did much better than I expected, so what do I know? :-)

The Dark Knight opens on July 18 (as if you didn't know).


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