‘Dark Knight’ Likely Had Sales of $80 Million, Analysts Estimate

Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises” probably generated $75 million to $80 million in U.S. ticket sales its first day, according to box-office analysts, in a debut marred by violence at a Colorado theater.

The sales, including tickets that were purchased before gunfire that killed 12 people at a screening in Aurora, Colorado, early on July 20, mean the movie may take in about $170 million for the weekend, the estimate of Jeff Bock, an analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co.

Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner Inc. (TWX), and other Hollywood studios aren’t reporting official sales figures, with some issuing statements citing sensitivity to the victims. Studios typically report figures for weekend sales every Sunday. Warner, based in Burbank, California, also has curbed promotion of the movie, one of the year’s most anticipated.

“Out of respect for the victims and their families, Warner Bros. Pictures will not be reporting box office numbers for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ throughout the weekend,” Warner Bros. said in a statement on July 20. “Box office numbers will be released on Monday.”

Warner Bros. canceled its Paris premiere and some network TV spots were pulled, people familiar with the situation said. The studio also scrapped plans for events in Tokyo and Mexico City, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Two analysts, Bock and Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com Box-Office, both estimated Friday’s total at as much as $80 million. Both said projections are difficult because of the unprecedented circumstances.

No Reporting

“Obviously, with the pre-sales, with a lot of people already holding their tickets, they were going to see this movie,” Dergarabedian said.

If the film takes in $170 million, it would rank as the second-best three-day debut, edging ahead of $169.2 million taken in by the final “Harry Potter” film, Bock said. “Marvel’s the Avengers,” from Walt Disney Co. (DIS), had the best opening of all time in May with sales of $207.4 million.

None of the studios followed their usual practice of releasing Friday box-office sales to reporting services, Bock and Dergarabedian said.

The estimates for July 20 for “Dark Knight” included $30.6 million in midnight sales.

Gas Mask

Before the violence at the Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK) theater in Colorado, the movie was expected to generate $170 million to $198 million in its first three days, the estimates of researchers Fizziology and Boxoffice.com.

In the film, Batman comes out of retirement to battle Bane, a powerful villain who incites class warfare in an attempt to take control of Gotham.

Television ads show a masked Bane declaring his plan to “liberate” Gotham City and explosions that destroy a football stadium. Bane is also seen confronting Batman on the streets of Gotham.

Christian Bale reprises his role as Batman and Tom Hardy portrays Bane. The film also features Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Cast members from the previous films, including Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, also return.

The film features a grim and despairing tone.

Set eight years after “The Dark Knight,” Wayne is hobbled by his many injuries from previous battles and is facing financial ruin with the near collapse of his Wayne Industries empire. Banes’ populist appeal to pit rich against poor prompted some critics to draw comparisons to the “Occupy” movement.

The shooter in Aurora wore a gas mask, similar to a mask worn by Bane in the film, and tossed tear gas into the auditorium before firing at 12:30 a.m., according to witness accounts. James Holmes, 24, was arrested later in the parking lot of the shopping mall that housed the theater.

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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