Batman rewrites box-office record books

Batman sequel The Dark Knight rewrote the box-office record books last weekend as audiences flocked to see late actor Heath Ledger in his last completed film role, figures showed on Monday.

The film raked in $158,4-million, crushing the previous North American box-office opening record of $151,1-million held by Spider-Man III, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations said.

Prior to The Dark Knight, Spider-Man III had led the all-time opening weekend figures from 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean II ($135,6-million) and 2007’s Shrek the Third ($121,6-million).

The performance of The Dark Knight helped the overall box-office to a record three-day take of $260-million.

Buzz has been building for weeks about director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to 2005’s Batman Begins, with several reviewers hailing Ledger’s performance as worthy of a posthumous Oscar nod.

Ledger, who died of an accidental drug overdose in New York in January, plays the cackling villain the Joker in The Dark Knight. Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock said he believed the box-office success of the film was largely due to the intense interest surrounding Ledger’s mesmerising performance.

”I think you have to credit this to a large extent to Heath Ledger,” Bock said. ”Since he died there has been a tremendous amount of anticipation about Heath’s performance.”

Analysts said The Dark Knight would likely exceed the total box-office take of Batman Begins — $205,3-million — by the end of this week.

With Batman dominant, the remainder of the box-office spoils were carved up by Abba musical Mamma Mia!, which opened with $27,7-million to take second place, and Will Smith’s flawed superhero Hancock ($14-million) in third.

In fourth place was adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth with $12,3-million while last week’s top dog, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, was fifth with $10,1-million.

Pixar animation’s WALL-E was sixth with $10-million while another animated feature, Space Chimps, was next with $7,1-million.

The Angelina Jolie action movie Wanted was eighth with $5-million, followed by the spoof spy comedy Get Smart ($4,1-million) and Kung Fu Panda ($1,9-million). — Sapa-AFP

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