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Sunday Discussion: The Financial Success of The Dark Knight

by
June 22, 2008
Source: Portfolio, Screen Rant

Portfolio's Batman Franchise Chart

In only 26 more days, The Dark Knight will finally be upon us. I know for certain that myself and probably all of the readers here on FS.net will love the film, but we'll deal with that later on. Despite our unabashed enthusiasm for The Dark Knight, it has, albeit very slim, a chance at missing its mark at the box office and performing lower than expected. A couple of articles have surfaced recently to this effect and I can't go without addressing them. And that's because I'm fully confident in the success of The Dark Knight and have no fears that it might underperform. Although I might have shocked a few people with that headline, the potential for The Dark Knight's critical financial failure is quite nearly impossible.

The article that started the ball rolling on this discussion was one written by Portfolio magazine titled Holy Bottom Line, Batman! The brief article, complete with a side-by-side comparison chart, addresses the financial success of the Batman franchise for Warner Brothers since it began in 1989. Their claim is that the franchise seems like a big money maker for Warner Brothers, but in reality "if you adjust the five films' budgets, box office returns, and lead actors' salaries for inflation, the franchise's payoff has actually shrunk." Although none of us really care about this certain statistic, the studio ended up with only a 36% ROI with Batman Begins. "Analysts project that The Dark Knight, which cost $180 million to make and also stars Bale, could gross as much as $300 million, for a return of 66.7 percent." Phew!

So it seems that my concern for the financial failure of The Dark Knight isn't that legitimate of a concern at all. However, some other writers are taking up arms and attempting to battle fans in articles that actually do put into question the success of the film. The next piece, written by Jamie Williams of Screen Rant, questions: Are Box Office Expectations Too High? I know I laughed when I first read that headline, but let's take a look at their argument before we go too far. We all remember Entertainment Weekly's Crazy Summer Box Office Predictions. The Dark Knight only making it to #6? That is laughable, especially considering Prince Caspian and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull won't reach the same heights that they predicted anyway. Has Jamie sided with Entertainment Weekly on this one as well?

The Dark KnightJamie claims that The Dark Knight won't get a $100 million opening weekend, citing the film's darker subject matter, 150-minute running time, and the fact that families aren't as encouraged to take their kids. All reasonable claims, but all ridiculous considering the reality of the film's potential. In the end, thankfully, he says "The Dark Knight is going to make a lot of money - easily more than the $205 million gross of Batman Begins." As for a specific estimate, here is what he says. "My guess is the film will gross around $75 to $80 million in its 3-day opening weekend. As for its total domestic box office, I think at the moment we’re looking at a solid $240 to $250 million." Another interesting prediction considering he just took the time to talk about how The Dark Knight is not going to play as well as expected.

So to look back at what we have, three different sources predict that The Dark Knight will end up with a summer total of around $250 million. I'm not so bold as to start guessing box office numbers myself, however, I will say that I think Jamie is wrong and I think The Dark Knight is going to be a huge hit for Warner Brothers. In fact, it already has all the right pieces in place to be huge, including the death of Heath Ledger. It's a sad subject and a tough one to talk about, but Ledger's death is what is going to actually boost this into the $300 million range. The Dark Knight is the one film this year that I've heard numerous people actually say they'll go to theaters to see. The last time I heard this kind of buzz was with 300, and we all know that was one of the biggest non-summer successes of last year.

At this point, all discussion about the box office potential of The Dark Knight (including this, really) is simply an attempt to capitalize on the hype for the film and attack it when it's unnecessary. We all know it's going to be big, it just seems the question is how big. I'm amazed that Indiana Jones is the only film so far to actually have a $100 million opening weekend. This only leaves just a few other films left that have the potential to break that barrier and kick Indy's ass, and The Dark Knight is one of them. We also have Wall-E and Hancock left, but the summer so far hasn't been so hot. And to me, that's a good sign that the big box office killer is just waiting to hit. And I've got a damn good feeling it's going to be The Dark Knight.

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  • Darrin
    it would do great at the box office. remember this was heath ledger last film. the first one grossed alot cash at the box office and also give a great fan base. the viral marketing for this film was excellent, with all the things with comic con.
  • Davor
    ohh this movie is going to break $ records i can bet money on that and i hope they leave the end of the movie whit the clear sign of sequel which i think they will. i cant wait this is the only movie i am excited to see this year and the new bond movie.
  • Joe H
    The film's got nearly $150 from me and my friends jsut this past weekend. We're there day one for the midnight showing in IMAX. Everyone's gonna see this one. There's no way this film will fail, financially or critically. It's a 100% lock.
  • jman571
    It's heath ledger's last movie...that's it. Although sad, it is for that reason alone that this movie is going to crush the box-office competition, and maybe some records as well. People are going to see this movie as the audio-visual epitaph to his career as a skilled and wonderful actor.
  • Garrett.king
    I don't believe that Ledger's death is the only reason people are going to see this film. However it is going to bring in a lot of people who are fans of Ledger. I have a feeling that Heath loyalists were going to go see this film, and people that were just sort of fans may have just perhaps wanted to see it but were thinking about bypassing it. Now with Ledgers fans dragging their husbands and wives and kids, as well as just regular Batman fans dragging their husbands and wives and kids not to mention just the average movie goers, this film is going to be a box office explosion.
  • http://blog.myspace.com/shero_rauf Shero
    1- Everyone will be interested to see almost the last completed movie that heath ledger act in ...specially in such a hard and crazy role ... 2- Everyone is agree that Christian Bale is one of the good actors for the role of Batman ... 3- Having Two face in the movie 4- a movie with 150,000,000 $ budget 5- a movie that directed by Christopher Nolan What we need more to be sure that this movie will explode in the box office ???
  • damuh_yuzah
    I'm living outside the US, and I'm telling you...for a holywood film this is generating a LOT of buzz...specially with Heath's passing.
  • http://www.moviepulp.be Kenneth
    Don't forget the absolute kick ass internet campaign. A perfect example of great viral marketing!
  • http://handfulofwires.blogspot.com DCompose
    I thought Heath Ledger's last movie was the Imaginarium of somethingsomething, with Tom Waits as the Devil. They had to recast a bunch of things in the wake of his death.
  • SOLID SNAKE
    9 - Notice people said his last completed film.
  • jepoy
    the dark knight will be awesome regardless of its financial success. i dont care if the movie earns below 100 million or 50 million on its opening day. the movie will be AWESOME period! lets just ignore this financial thing and prepare for the dark knight! and its heath ledger's last movie. lets give hime the respect and recognition that he deserves. RIP † Heath Ledger †
  • Josh
    It's not Heath's last movie. He still has another one coming out. Anyway, that's not why I am seeing it. I am seeing it because I was blown away with Batman Begins: the script, the acting, the story, and the execution. I am seeing it because Heath's role will be an iconic and unbeatable one. I think that it will be one of the most beautifully acted roles in a movie for a really long time. Plus, Batman is just a great concept anyway.
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    "At this point, all discussion about the box office potential of The Dark Knight is simply an attempt to capitalize on the hype for the film and attack it when it's unnecessary." Ouch, dude. That's more than a bit harsh, don't you think? Have you never written a speculative piece on this site? Don't get me started on sites that "capitalize on hype." Hell, you've got a "hype" piece in your "Popular Articles" right now about Jon Favreau possibly not directing "Iron Man 2." I never even jumped on that hype-wagon and actually said the opposite on Screen Rant because of COURSE in the end he'll get the sequel. A good friend of ours does saturation bombing of posts the week a popular movie is due to come out, so do me a favor and be careful where you lob those opportunist grenades. Vic
  • REAL6
    This NOT Heath Ledger's last movie Numb Skulls!!!
  • szkari
    In my opinion /as far as I noticed in trailers and photos/ Nolad made a very big mistake in TDK. Batman is all about suspence, asking questions etc. In the BB you could nerly notice the details of Batman suit /because it was covered with cape, it was to dark etc./ It was good! But now... you can see just everything, too much! They even revealed it on posters. Also the scene when Batman inteviews Joker at the police station... everything revealed... In my opinion Batman should be all covered with his cape... I hope movie will be good everal.
  • http://youtube.com/user/UribeFilmProductions vic
    I know im gonna see this movie at least 15 times....hahahahha!
  • Spider
    This flick will be HUGE!
  • John
    What is missing, BIG TIME, from the publicized anaylsis above is the INTERNATIONAL business this film will pull in (as well as the business Batman Begins did internationally). A film of this magnitude can make 2-3 times more internationally than it does here in the U.S. Superheroes especially fare well. That is why Warner Bros. plumps down an absurd amount of money for this flick.
  • Nettle
    This is Heath's last COMPLETED movie. He didn't finish the other movies he was working on.
  • http://lol.com jimbo
    this movie is going to be tight. the viral marketing was genius and that combined with the support of heath ledger fans make this movie a shoo-in to hit the $100 million opening weekend mark.
  • http://jaycersworld.blogspot.com Juan Carlo
    Excuse me? INDY 4 only 100 million weekend? What happened to a little something called IRON MAN? Brilliant marketing, killer story, Ledger as the Joker, Two-Face, Ledger's last COMPLETED film, Batman, a really good first movie, Batman... I ask you, how is this NOT going to be the biggest summer movie yet? If anything, it'll come second to IRON MAN only!
  • damuh_yuzah
    I hope Heath gets an oscar nomination if his performance is what I'm expecting it to be...
  • David R
    I remember when I went to see Batman Begins I was surprised at the ammount of parents who brought they're kids. When ever scarecrow's drugs kicked in the kids only gasped and yelled and wailed every time Batman/Bruce did something cool. So who knows, maybe kids will be at this one also.
  • http://www.paynebyname.com Payne by name
    I watched Batman Begins again at the weekend and although it's a good film there is still something missing from it that I can't put my finger on. I don't know if it's because it's got too many big names in it or that the film has an inevitable ticking bomb conclusion to it. There's just something about it which is missing a soul. I'm sure I'm one of the few to feel it and although I'd like to see at the cinema I'm not holding out hope of it really delivering. It's almost too big and too much of an event.
  • Boo-Yah
    I'm probably going to see this at least twice opening weekend. So I'll help make up for the little crying kids who won't be dragged to this flick. Thank God.
  • jono
    the dark knight will make 175 million dollars first weekend this film will blow everything else out of the water who cares how long it is its 13min longer than begins
  • jono
    all the kids will go a se this movie alex that prick no clue at all i cant even belive u put this up
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    "jono" (is that a cute play on "Juno") you're being a "prick" yourself. The article was well reasoned and written by someone who knows what's going on in the industry AND wants the movie to do well. If you think TDK is going to do $175MM on opening weekend you're an idiot. If Alex wants to be cheerleader for TDK fine (hell, I was a huge one myself for Iron Man), but he needs a reality check himself. Or have you forgotten how "awesome" he thought Speed Racer was and what a monster hit that was supposed to be? The biggest opener to date is Spider-Man 3 and that did just over 150MM with a much broader appeal. I don't even know why I'm bothering to respond to someone who doesn't even know how to compose a sentence using capitalization, commas and periods. Vic
  • 790
    Alex I think your way off with this. I never got the vibe that Jamies article was capitalizing on the hype and attacking the movie. Where do you get that? You sound like a retard.
  • The Show
    Why is writing an article pointing to Dark Knight making 250 Million at the box office considered "an attack it when it's unnecessary" on the film? If Dark Knight pulled in 250 Million that is 100 Million more than the budget of 150 Million? That is a pretty damn big success. 300 Million dollars has only been attained by 4 Comicbook films, Iron Man and the Spiderman 1-3. These were all lighthearted Marvel heroes. To proclaim that Dark Knight is going to hit 300 Million Domestic is much more of a reach than predicting 250 Million considering the movie's content. Either way this movie will be succesful, but to hear some of these posters on various forums discussing box office and making these ridiculous predictions is hilalrious
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    Show, Yeah, that was absolutely the point of the article on my site. Best, Vic
  • Icarus
    I personally don't think that this film is going to make as much money as all the fanboys are anticipating. The film is dark, and LONG. Don't expect it to hit as hard in the box office as the family friendly "Iron Man." I would expect a strong opening weekend, but nothing absurd, and then after that I'd expect that it will fall off, I don't think it will even hit the 250 million mark domestically. All this being said, I think it's going to be amazing. I can't wait to see it.
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    #13 - Vic, calm down, I didn't say I was excluded. In fact, this article is partially in that group, and yes, I jump on hype all the time. Don't take it so personally - it's called argument and discussion. You should be honored the article on your site is what caused me to write about it to begin with. #21 - I really hate to say it... but just because a film is good doesn't necessarily mean it will be huge at the box office. As great as Iron Man was, and I'll agree that it was fantastic, that doesn't mean it'll be huge. Just look at Spider-Man 3. That movie was not-so-good, but it made more at the box office than ANY other movie that summer. It is very, very hard for new franchises to do so well. But Iron Man has good reviews and positive buzz helping it. However, Batman, a long-running franchise currently on a sequel of a successful new reboot, is going to perform a LOT better because it has that established connection. That is just fact, unfortunately...
  • Ajax
    I don't think time has anyhing to do with the screen time. I mean, "Titanic" was like 3 hrs. long but that's the all time box office champion. Besides, if you get awsome reviews, they will come.
  • LeeMan
    what do you mean that this summer hasn't been so hot?? the only reason nthe other summers have had higher grossing opening weekends is because it had huge franchises like shrek, spiderman, and pirates to back it up. this year doesn't but it makes up for it with a lot more 50+M opening then years past. so the statement i think is wrong. i hate when people say the dark knight is too dark. LOTR was DARK. the matrix was DARK, and so is Iron Man, so why is this film's potential box office success any different?
  • Ricky
    I think this movie is easily going to surpass the $300 mil mark. This movie is like a title wave that we've been able to see from the beach for a few months now. The summer movie waters have been pretty still all summer. Indiana Jones was kind of a disappointment, not because it didn't get the same kind of hype, but because it strayed from the original franchise and a movie like that needs the word of mouth of the original fanboys. It didn't get it. This movie will be because Nolan is such a good story teller. Special effects, and Heath Ledger aside this movie will be a good story in a summer that has been pretty void of plot (with the exception of Ironman). And to those who say this movie is too dark for kids, they're missing two important points. One the definition of "family film" has changed dramatically over the past few years. Our culture isn't as child centered as it was only five years ago (I know I'm a preschool teacher), it is more parent centered and if there's one thing all parents like to do it's share some of their favorite childhood aspects with their own children. The fact that this movie has The Joker in it will ultimately be a throwback to the Batman that many parents grew up watching. They're going to want to share that with their children no matter how inappropriate it may be. Parents took their children in droves to Spiderman and Transformers for this very reason. This Batman movie has more working for it than any of the previous films. It's a sequel, Heath Ledger's death, it's got a familiar and classic villian, super hero's are huge right now, so far the summer has been sub par, the movies opening the weekend prior and after it are not going to be blockbuster type competition (Hellboy II the week before, Step Brothers & X-Files the week after). The movie is really coming out in kind of a dead period in the summer. I think Hancock is going to bomb, the Wackness isn't going to have mass appeal, Hellboy is a middle tier not for everyone sci-fi movie, same can be said for X-Files ....Step Brothers is really the only movie that's going to be an obstacle for Batman, and it's a small one. Batman is going to have the whole second half of July to mop up until Mummy 3 comes out in early August.
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    Alex, we're good. Sorry about the Speed Racer crack. :-) But this... "Our culture isn't as child centered as it was only five years ago (I know I'm a preschool teacher), it is more parent centered" Yeah, and that's a big problem. If someone is a parent, they SHOULD be child centered. That's their JOB. "The fact that this movie has The Joker in it will ultimately be a throwback to the Batman that many parents grew up watching.They're going to want to share that with their children no matter how inappropriate it may be." Great. Brilliant. Morons like that give good parents a bad name. Vic
  • The Show
    What is so ironic about this article when compared to the one at Screenrant, is that this article basically proves the point Jamie was trying to make in regards to "nerdgasming". Hulk fans were insisting "their movie" was going to make over 200 Million domestic, look how that is turning out. Also, it is amazing how somebody can take articles so out of context, when you go back and read the original articles that were being commented on. Wow.
  • http://movieguyreviews4u.blogspot.com Ryan
    I really feel that you are 100% wrong on thios. I am a humongous Batman fan but this is just UNREALISTIC your expectations, though I wish you were right. This may have a very outside chance of 100M but I wouldn't count on it. The first one made $205M, I say this one makes $255M. Batman is one of the most well known Superheroes but for some reason not on the screen. The movie is long so that cuts down on running time and kid appeal and also it is too dark for a family flick. Why I feel that it will make $50M or so more? 1. More recognizable villian. Joker over Scarecrow? 2. Franchise is more secure after what was BATMAN & ROBIN, more fans are drawn back in. 3. Inflation (tickets are more so box office earnings go up). 4. IMAX (same with inflation, with more IMAXs mean more higher price tickets being sold). But, Alex and to anyone else bringing this up. HEATH LEDGER DOESN'T MATTER WITH THIS FILMS BOX OFFICE ONE BIT! Really? How BIG is his following? Not to sound harsh but name ONE hit he solely headlined? NO celeb albeit Will Smith has a constant box office draw. Even Pitt, Clooney and Jolie (some of the most known celebs) have ahd flops recently. Since when did Ledger become bigger then all of them?????? Outside of these sites, who else gives a F**K about Nolan or Bale or the huge budget or Ledger's last performance. Not many. I feel that this movie will be awesome and do somewhat better but I don't see it being the hit of the summer. I feel that will go to HANCOCK with a prime spot.
  • 790
    Ryan your even disconnected as Alex if you think that Heath Ledgers death won't fill the seats. Also why is this comment box so fricken narrow? Wtf. This is the worst ever.
  • L
    I'm going to be really honest as much as I am a fanboy of the general character. From the get go, Batman has more buzz and familiarity than Ironman (a movie I loved). Ironman has never been an ultra popular character among mainstream heros and look what it raked in. Batman does have the clout to be as strong as Ironman, but I do agree that the dark content could be a huge turn off to conservative parents. I wouldn't trade the atmosphere of "Batman Begins" and the "The Dark Knight" just to sell the story to everyone 8-80. This is the way Batman is supposed to be and I'm glad to be apart of it.
  • Ricky
    Screenrant (#37) it is sad the way some parents today think. I certainly don't agree with it, but it's the truth. I would bet that at least half of the parents I know would consider taking their children to this....and I teach at a Christian school. So even though this obviously won't be a "family film" it will still draw it's fair share of families because A: the parent will want to see it B: The kid is going to ask to see it C: The parent is going to make a moral judgement call based on the fact that they want their child to see this because of how much they loved the original Batman as a child. #39...you're out of your mind if you think a quasi-satirical pretend and cliche super-hero movie, that has been in panic mode for the past few months over the negative reactions to its trailer is going to top Batman. Hancock is going to have a big 4th of July weekend, and then weeks of bad word of mouth leading to one of the biggest disappointments of the summer. And Heath Ledger's death ...HUGE draw for this film. I know plenty of girls who will see any movie he's in simply because he's in it. This is his last film, and I know at least 2 girls who have no interest in Batman but are going to see it anyway because they want to see "what role made Heath so depressed." That sounds kinda gay, and it is, but it's got a lot of truth to it and there are a lot of people who are going to see this movie based on that curiosity (not just the 2 girls I know obviously). In general his death peaks even more hype and curiousity over this movie. I was curious to see just hearing he got cast because he didn't seem to fit the part, then I was really excited when I saw him in the trailer because he looked so demented, and sadly now that he's gone I am a bit curious to see if this will be the film most people will remember him by. So not only is he going to bring in a more willing female audience, but he's going to bring in....I don't know maybe an extra 15% of revenue based on an audience there mostly because of on how insane he looks in the previews combined with curiosity over his death.
  • Alfredo
    Like #39 said, I really don't think Ledger's passing will affect the box office much. Sure there was a lot of attention in the media back in the day, but now all that's gone. If anything it will only affect loyal Ledger fans. And movies being good and having a strong fan base are not a recipe for an automatic earning of 300 mil. Iron Man came out of nowhere and did it for whatever reason, yet Hulk is a lot more well know and it was still just as good as IM and it's struggling to reach 100 mil in its first two weeks. I give Batman 250 max if there's no early buildup. If there is, then the sky is the limit.
  • Dan
    Batman Begins is overrated.
  • Arnold
    Although the Hulk is well known, lets be honest, it wasn't nearly as good as Iron Man. Im a student atm and one of the most talked about movies during the end of last semester and with my friends at home is The Dark Knight. The last time my friends and even other people i know were this excited about a new release a long time before its debut was 300. I'm going to go with Alfredo's latter prediction, it will be the movie to see this July.
  • http://www.filmschoolrejects.com Neil (Film School Rejects)
    "A good friend of ours does saturation bombing of posts the week a popular movie is due to come out, so do me a favor and be careful where you lob those opportunist grenades." Is he referring to me? If so, I'm not offended... I am a total sellout. That reminds me, Paramount still owes me a check for my Love Guru coverage. :P
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    LOL, didn't say anything was wrong with it. At all. BTW, a check is the least they could do for you. I wouldn't even do a magic 8-ball giveaway for the movie. :-) Vic
  • http://www.filmschoolrejects.com Neil (Film School Rejects)
    Oh and as for this argument... The Dark Knight is quite possibly the film that will wipe this summer's slate clean, causing us to forget what else came out this year. It is going to be awesome. It has so much going for it (the Heath Ledger thing, primo release date, tons of solid marketing and well, it is a sequel to a very good film with a return -- and upgraded -- cast). I see no reason why it won't do well at the box office.
  • http://www.filmschoolrejects.com Neil (Film School Rejects)
    "LOL, didn't say anything was wrong with it. At all." Aha! It was directed at me... That's it, Holterman! Comic-Con, you -- me -- parking lot. :P
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    And again, I want to reiterate that I BELIEVE it will be AWESOME. I just don't think it's going to be a mega-hit on the scale of Iron Man, Transformers, Spider-Man, etc. BTW, this is one case where I'd be happy to be wrong. :-) Vic
  • http://screenrant.com ScreenRant.com
    LOL, hey, I've been working out too ya know! Bring it! Vic
  • Brian
    To: #32 "The film is dark, and LONG. Don't expect it to hit as hard in the box office as the family friendly "Iron Man." Uh, are you kidding me?!?! I seem to remember Iron Man being violent, and he had a STRIPPER POLE on his plane! Family Friendly? What's your family do on weekends? "The Dark Knight" will kick some booty. Let's all just go see it, then discuss. It will make a lot of money. I think it will make well over 100 million, opening weekend.
  • Lynn
    66.4 million first day!
  • Lynn
    155.3 million 3 day total
  • Lynn
    43.8 mill third weekend and a domestic total of 394.8 mill in just 17 days, way to go EW

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