The Dark Knight Rises opens with $160 million was edited from a phone, so pardon any formatting errors. When a heavily-anticipated film debuts alongside a mass murder that takes place during a midnight showing of said film, it’s difficult to know how to analyze the opening weekend figures. I don’t mean morally speaking (all due respect, anyone offended by number crunching after such a tragedy shouldn’t be clicking on a link entitled ‘Weekend Box Office’), I mean practically. Under normal circumstances, the fact that The Dark Knight Rises debuted with $160 million over the weekend would lend itself to the usual analysis, dealing with weekend multipliers, midnight-percentages, comparisons to The Dark Knight and other recent blockbusters, and a guesstimate in regards to final domestic outcome. But it is impossible for now to know what the effect of the shooting had on the film’s short term or long term box office performance, so for the sake of this calculation, we will basically presume that the shooting had little quantifiable effect on the numbers, and frankly looking over the data I’m inclined to believe as much. The film did about as well, give-or-take, as it would have been expected to do. But the numbers, presuming little-to-no effect from Friday morning’s tragedy, means that the third Chris Nolan Batman film was a slightly less anticipated affair than the last go-around, which will likely bode comparatively ill for long-term grosses. Basically, horror of horrors, The Dark Knight Rises might just perform like a normal mega-blockbuster.

To wit, The Dark Knight Rises debuted with $30.4 million in midnight showings (second only to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II’s $43 million midnight-haul) and ended its first complete Friday with $75 million, good for the third-biggest single day of all time, behind The Avengers ($80 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($91 million). Considering The Dark Knight Rises was in 2D, it surely sold more tickets on Friday than The Avengers and may have sold more than Harry Potter 7.2 (we’ll know for sure in a few days). The film earned 40% of its Friday figure via midnight showings, identical to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I ($24 million at midnight, $62 million on Friday) and just ahead of all-time worst midnight-percentage opening days Harry Potter 7.2 ($43m/$91m = 45%) and Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($30m/$68m = 44%). But its raw ‘regular business hours’ Friday total was about $45 million, just below the $48m/$49m earned by the likes of Harry Potter 7.2, Spider-Man 3, and The Dark Knight. It’s well below the $62 million earned during the ‘regular business hours’ Friday of The Avengers (which did just $18 million of its $80 million Friday at midnight), but merely being among the biggest isn’t cause for condemnation.

Its $44.9 million Saturday gross means it dropped 41% from Friday, compared to the 29% that The Dark Knight dropped this time four years ago. It’s also over $2 million less than The Dark Knight’s first Saturday ($47 million), which again merely means that the film was an exceptionally anticipated (and thus heavily front-loaded) genre sequel. But it also means that it can’t even claim the best Saturday of 2012, as The Hunger Games, coming off a $67 million Friday ($19 million at midnight) earned $50 million on its first Saturday four months ago. As it stands, $44.9 million makes it the seventh-best Saturday of all time, behind Iron Man 2 ($45 million) and behind Shrek the Third and The Dark Knight ($47 million each), The Hunger Games ($50 million), Spider-Man 3 ($51 million), and The Avengers ($69 million). The Sunday number ($40 million) puts The Dark Knight Rises at number three among Sundays, behind The Dark Knight ($43 million) and The Avengers ($57 million). Come what may, compared to recent blockbusters, The Dark Knight Rises stands pretty tall, especially without that 3D advantage.

The weekend take of $160 million makes it the top 2D debut of all-time and the third-biggest ever, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($169 million) and The Avengers ($207 million) and $2 million ahead of the $158 million opening weekend of The Dark Knight. For the record, a 3D conversion would have brought the opening weekend to around $185 million, but I digress. Its weekend total is actually $14 million below the adjusted-for-inflation weekend debut of the second Batman film. Its weekend multiplier is 2.13x, just below the 2.235x weekend multiplier for The Dark Knight. At this point, with all the relevant numbers hammered out, we get into pure speculation and guestimation. Whether or not outside factors are to blame, the fact that its midnight-to-Friday percentage (40%) and its midnight-to-weekend percentage (18.5%) both fall on the very high side. In normal circumstances, such numbers would forecast a weekend-to-total multiplier closer to 2x-2.3x (Harry Potter films and Twilight sequels) as opposed to the 3.3x of The Dark Knight. A perfectly plausible 2.5x multiplier gets the third Batman film to $400 million, while a 2x gets it to ‘just’ $320 million, or just above the first Iron Man ($318 million) and just below Spider-Man 3 ($337 million or a 2.2x off a $151 million debut). We’ll know more next weekend, although the first few weekdays will give us some clues as well, as The Dark Knight earned $66 million over its first Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday. Looking at these figures irrespective of outside variables, I’d call $350-375 million final domestic gross for The Dark Knight Rises.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos

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