Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Weekend Forecast—Let the battle begin: The Avengers vs. The Dark Knight Rises

In 2005, Warner Bros. rebooted the Batman franchise with Christopher Nolan as director. The first installment in the Nolan-Bat trilogy—Batman Begins—opened to a mediocre $72.9 million over its 5-day opening. However, the film went on to gross $205.3 million; it was not close to Marvel’s Spider-Man but it still ignited the start of DC comics' superheroes again. The year after, DC and WB released Superman Returns, an alternate sequel to original Superman film series; it eventually scored a higher gross than Batman Begins, but was still a disappointment in the eyes of Warner Bros. In 2008, the Bat sequel finally hit theaters on July 18 and broke the record of highest-opening weekend with $158.4 million. It astonished many people including Warner Bros. and reinforced the fact that DC comics still had hard-core fans and was prominent throughout North America.  On top of a staggering opening weekend, The Dark Knight went on to become the second-highest grossing film just behind Titanic with $533.3 million. Soon enough Marvel’s The Avengers grabbed most of its records and became a formidable opponent for the finale of Nolan’s Batman trilogy—one of the most anticipated films of 2012. What makes The Avengers a worthy opponent is its ostensibly insurmountable $207.4 million debut. However, it had the advantage of 3D premiums that boosted its opening weekend with $35 million. Equivalently, The Dark Knight Rises has the advantage of IMAX, but the question is: Will it be good enough?

In the last decade, many finales have been greatly successful. The three most notable finales of the last decade are The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. A comparison of the opening weekend for each of the respective predecessors illustrates that there was a note-worthy increase: a 22% increase from Two Towers to The Return of the King; a 44% improvement from Star Wars: Episode II to Episode III; and a 35% escalation from Part 1 to Part 2 of the Harry Potter finale. However, The Dark Knight Rises has one advantage the other two finales did not—a cryptic ending. Unlike Lord of the Rings 3 and Harry Potter 8, Nolan’s superhero film is not based on a book thereby making the ending a mystery. This “darkness” effectively creates a higher level of anticipation and hype. An example of the hype is the attack on negative reviewers on the review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, for the final “Batman” tentpole. Such an increased interest over the internet would reflect the ticket sales of the film.

Although the film’s marketing campaign has not grown gradually from film-to-film as it has for The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises’ promotion has been steadily building up for four years, starting with a viral campaign and ending with the pre-release of the Hans Zimmer soundtrack. The introduction of the soundtrack effectively creates more enthusiasm as it allows the fans to envision what is to come in the film.

Both the trailers and the posters have belabored the tagline—“The Legend Ends”—in order to highlight finality of the series thereby making the movie a must-see attraction. Along with this tagline, the previews have focused on the action and the IMAX aspects—the film features more than 70 minutes of IMAX footage. The two previous films mainly attracted male adults and the promotion of the film was targeted for this demographic. As a means to widen the audience, most of the trailers focus on Catwoman—the femininity of the film—who is popular in the female world. The ball and dance scene with Catwoman also presents a mysterious relationship between Batman and Catwoman—one that will surely attract many females. 

With the absence of the Joker in this film, another villain that is probably even stronger than Wayne was needed to create fear in much of the audience; the best choice was Bane. Even one of the posters depicts a shattered Batman mask on the ground, which may suggest the death of Batman. The possibility that Batman may die, not only heightens the alacrity of fans, but also invokes a variety of emotions in the audience. The ultimate question in this marketing move is “Will Batman die?”

Other than the 3D downside, Nolan’s finale suffers from a near- 3 hour runtime that is challenging theater owners in meeting all the demand. One of the solutions is to screen the film continuously for 24-72 hours at some of the location. The chain, along with AMC Theaters, offers 3:30 a.m.- 4 a.m. show times on Friday. It is also opening in a record-breaking 332 IMAX locations that will surely accommodate the IMAX demands. It is possible this move will lead to the biggest-opening day; Deathly Hallows - Part 2's opening day record is at stake!

Opening in a superhero record 4,404 locations, The Dark Knight Rises will have no trouble garnering more than $180 million over its 3-day debut. Expect a record shattering $210.5 million.

1. IMAX surcharge
2. Wide Release—4,404 locations and 332 IMAX locations, each of which is more than that of The Avengers.
3. Release Date—Its summer time: No school, everyone is out and running.
4. The sense of closure: The Dark Knight Rises is a finale, a must-see film.
1. Absence of 3D
2. Long Runtime (164 minutes), so less showings.

Opening Weekend Forecast: $210.5 million


  1. Isn't $210.5 a bit of a stretch?

  2. Well, two days ago, it wouldn't have been. But, with recent events (The Colorado Shooting), it is quite impossible for it to break The Avengers record. Anything in the $180M-$190M range will be a feat under the given circumstances.

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