Can 'The Dark Knight Rises' Beat the Box-Office Record Just Set by 'The Avengers?'
Wow. Just … wow. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers threw down the gauntlet, earning a record-setting $200.3M at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, and raising the bar for summer blockbusters that dare to come out in its wake.
Whedon’s film topped the previous all-time weekend opening number of $169.3M (set by the final chapter in the Harry Potter series), and set a slew of additional box office records including best Saturday gross (of $69.7) and best Sunday gross (of $50.1M).
The next obvious question becomes, “Which movie will eventually beat the record just set by The Avengers?” And a quick scan of Summer 2012’s release schedule even produces an obvious answer.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
But if you stop for a moment, take a deep breath and consider the facts, you’ll come to the same conclusion I have: The Dark Knight Rises has very little chance of topping the opening-weekend record just set by The Avengers.
Here are three reasons why:
1. No 3D
Fans everywhere likely are applauding Nolan’s decision to avoid 3D when it comes to the trilogy-capping conclusion of his spectacular Dark Knight series. Nolan sets most of his Batman adventures in the shadows, and the inherent dimness of a 3D experience probably would make the director’s moody visuals as muddled as Bane’s voice. (Well, before the digital makeover.) But the suits at Warner Bros. no doubt are cursing the lack of increased revenue that comes with a 3D ticket. I don’t think Whedon’s Avengers crosses $200M in its opening weekend without the 3D bump at the box office … and I don’t think Nolan’s anticipated film trumps The Avengers without it, either.
2. It’s Not Family-Friendly
Not that parents are bringing pre-schoolers to The Avengers, but the lighter, accessible, and more heroic tone of Whedon’s blockbuster has broader appeal than Nolan’s uncompromisingly dark Batman universe. Again, fans of Nolan’s films wouldn’t have it any other way. But when we’re weighing universal appeal of the characters on screen, I’m giving the slight edge to The Avengers. Seeing Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk in the same film gets people – even casual fans – out of the house on opening weekend. Seeing the late Heath Ledger nail an iconic villain like The Joker on screen also gets casual fans out of the house. With all due respect to Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, I’m not so sure Catwoman and Bane have the same drawing power.
3. It Wasn’t First
Box office figures show that the first movies out of the gate in the summer season receive a financial bump. Last year, the enjoyable Fast Five boasted some of the best numbers in that franchise’s history. Thor and Woverine are other superheroes who posted big numbers by opening the summer seasons in their respective years. That’s not to say The Dark Knight Rises won’t do very well overall. But when it comes to opening weekend, the first frame of the summer and the holiday weekends of Memorial Day and July 4 do very well. The weekend of July 20 – when TDKR opens – is somewhat buried. By opening late in the summer, Batman also will face stiffer competition from films like The Amazing Spider-Man, G.I. Joe and another Ice Age. The Avengers faced off against Think Like a Man and The Hunger Games … and devoured them, whole.
Listen, it’s completely possible that Nolan delivers a masterpiece in The Dark Knight Rises, concluding a trilogy that will go down in the record books as the greatest superhero series we’ve ever seen. And if it’s as good as fans hope, I can see TDKR eventually earning more than The Avengers at the overall box office. But for the reasons listed above, I’d be very surprised to see Dark Knight top the $200M mark set by Avengers in its opening weekend.
What do you think? Will fans put their money behind Nolan’s epic on opening weekend? Or have enough Avengers fans assembled to keep Marvel’s mighty blockbuster on the top of those charts? Let us know below.
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Sean O'ConnellFandango Bloggers
Sean is a film reviewer for The Washington Post and daily contributor to Fandango.