"The Dark Knight Rises" is poised to have a blockbuster opening… (Ron Phillips / Warner Bros. )
"The Dark Knight Rises"is entering the final sprint to the box office just slightly behind "The Avengers," which set an all-time record in May with its $207.4-million domestic debut.
Warner Bros.' third and final Batman movie from director Christopher Nolanmade its first appearance Thursday morning on widely used research surveys known in Hollywood as "tracking" that gauge audience interest in upcoming pictures.
All measures for "The Dark Knight Rises," which will hit theaters July 20, were huge, according to people who have seen the confidential data. The percentage of people in the U.S. and Canada who said they were "definitely interested" in seeing the Batman movie, or listed it as their "first choice" among upcoming releases, was virtually identical to the percentage for "Avengers" three weeks before its debut -- at 64% and 22%, respectively.
When "first choice" is sliced by demographic category, "The Dark Knight Rises" is stronger among men, while "The Avengers" was initially generating more excitement among women.
The only category in which "The Dark Knight Rises" lagged significantly behind "Avengers" is that of "unaided awareness" -- the percentage of people who could list it as an upcoming release without any prompting. The figure for the third Batman movie is 8%, compared with 13% for Avengers at the same point in time.
However, "Avengers" was the first tentpole release of the summer season, and there were no movies nearly as big opening in the three weeks before it. Prior to "The Dark Knight Rises" are such highly anticipated pictures as"The Amazing Spider-Man"and"Ice Age: Continental Drift."The big advertising campaigns for those pictures make it a little tougher for Warner Bros. to get moviegoers' attention
In comparison with anything except "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises" looks like a blockbuster. Its "definite interest" and "first choice" figures are even slightly higher than those of 2009's "The Dark Knight," which opened to $158.4 million. The people who have seen the data expect that "The Dark Knight Rises" will have a massive opening of more than $150 million and could approach the "Avengers" record.
Tracking is usually used for movies with more normal openings of less than $100 million. When interest is as huge as it is for "The Dark Knight Rises," it's difficult to tell in advance whether the opening will be merely massive or record breaking.
Either way, "The Dark Knight Rises," which features Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway as new antagonists for Christian Bale's caped crusader, is poised to rake in huge profit for Warner and its financing partner Legendary Entertainment. The two companies spent roughly $250 million to produce the film, according to knowledgeable people not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Ultimately, "The Dark Knight Rises" is well positioned to exceed the $1-billion worldwide box office total collected by "The Dark Knight."
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