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‘Dark Knight Rises’ May Top Ledger Movie With $198 Million Debut

Photographer: Ron Phillips/Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures via Bloomberg

Tom Hardy and Christian Bale battle as Bane and Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Close

Tom Hardy and Christian Bale battle as Bane and Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises."

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Photographer: Ron Phillips/Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures via Bloomberg

Tom Hardy and Christian Bale battle as Bane and Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises."

“The Dark Knight Rises,” the third and last Warner Bros. film with Christian Bale as Batman, may generate as much as $198 million in its opening weekend to become the second-biggest U.S. debut of all time.

The forecasts from industry researchers, ranging from a low of $170 million, would mark the best Batman opening ever, while falling short of the record $207.4 million posted in May by “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s superhero film.

“‘The Avengers’ was the first out of the gate,” said Ben Carlson, co-founder of the research firm Fizziology. “Now it’s the heart of the movie season and there’s a big film released every week.”

“The Dark Knight Rises” also follows the July 3 opening of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” creating more competition for superhero fans, according to Carlson, who said the picture is generating less buzz on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The movie, the last Batman film from series director Christopher Nolan, will probably become one of studio parent Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s two biggest releases this year.

“The Dark Knight Rises,” co-starring Tom Hardy as the villain Bane, cost about $250 million to make, according to the Internet Movie Database. The film accounted for 85 percent of yesterday’s advance sales at Fandango.com, the ticket site owned by Comcast Corp., according to Harry Medved, a spokesman.

It’s one of the few tentpole pictures not in 3-D this year. Nolan has said he doesn’t like the technology.

Sales Estimates

Fizziology, which measures chatter on social media, estimates opening-weekend sales of $170 million, Carlson said in an interview. Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co., forecasts about $180 million. Boxoffice.com sees $198 million from 4,404 domestic locations.

Warner Bros., based in Burbank, California, is fourth in 2012 domestic ticket sales with $683.2 million as of July 15, according to Box Office Mojo, a film researcher.

The biggest performer this year for the studio is “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which has generated $325.9 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

Warner Bros. in December releases “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which is also expected to be one of the studio’s biggest pictures of the year. The parent company got 20 percent of its 2011 profit from filmed entertainment.

Time Warner rose 0.5 percent to $38.92 yesterday in New York. The stock has increased 7.7 percent this year.

“The Dark Knight,” released in 2008, took in $158.4 million in the U.S. during its first weekend and had $1 billion in global ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The film also garnered a supporting actor Oscar for the late Heath Ledger, who played the Joker.

“Batman Begins,” the first Nolan-Bale collaboration, opened in 2005 with $48.7 million in U.S. weekend sales and generated a worldwide total of $372.7 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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