‘Dark Knight’ Claims Superhero Supremacy With New Box-Office Records

Batman's $158.3 million haul smashes previous records held by 'Spider-Man 3.'

The Box-Office Top Five

#1 “The Dark Knight” ($158.3 million)
#2 “Mamma Mia!” ($27.6 million)
#3 “Hancock” ($14 million)
#4 “Journey to the Center of the Earth” ($11.9 million)
#5 “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” ($10 million)

It’s been analyzed more carefully than the stock market, dissected from more angles than the Zapruder film, given more column inches over the years than Willy Mays versus Mickey Mantle or Obama versus Hillary: Just who is the ultimate comic book hero? Let’s put a smile on that face — thanks to “The Dark Knight,” we now have our answer.

Christopher Nolan‘s second Batman film flew on leather wings to rescue the summer movie season, setting at least eight records on its way to hauling $158.3 million over the three-day weekend (bumped up on Monday morning from a previous report of $155.3 million), including biggest-ever midnight opening ($18.5 million, beating the $16.9 million earned by “Revenge of the Sith”), biggest single-day gross in box-office history (Friday’s epic $67.85 million), biggest-ever IMAX release (Saturday, reportedly, was at 100 percent capacity in the specialty theaters) and, of course, biggest-ever opening weekend, steamrolling “Spider-Man 3″ for the last three records. Roll that in your web and smoke it, Peter Parker.

Equally stunning is the fact that “The Dark Knight” is an impressive artistic achievement as well as a commercial one. Currently, the film sits at the top of the IMDb’s user-rating system, ranked as the number one film in history. No joke — Oscar talk has also begun to percolate for actor Heath Ledger, whose untimely death earlier this year came before the world could see what many are calling the greatest portrayal of a villain since Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Where can the Caped Crusader go from here? Almost certainly down, of course, though with little competition in the coming weeks and positively astronomical word of mouth, “The Dark Knight” should have as good a chance at $400 million as any film in recent memory, and an outside shot at winding up the #2 film in history (it would need $461 million to beat “Star Wars” and wind up behind “Titanic”). But what about creatively? Already, many are saying the film is so good they don’t want to see a part three, or they want to see a third film after a hiatus of five or more years. Us? Tell you what, Mr. Nolan, we’ll flip a coin for it. Heads you make it, tails you don’t. (I should warn you, though, that I borrowed my quarter from Harvey Dent.)

Believe it or not, there were other films out this weekend. In second place, “Mamma Mia!” proved that even the Bat needs a little counterprogramming, dancing its way to $27.6 million and a second-place finish. We’ll sing to that. “Hancock,” meanwhile, came in third with $14 million, bringing it within a week of becoming yet another $200 million vehicle for Will Smith. Rounding out the top five, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” earned $11.9 million in fourth place, while “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” earned $10 million for fifth.

Special note must be made of “Hellboy,” unfortunately, which plummeted 71 percent in its second weekend, a staggering drop that goes down as the all-time biggest fall for a movie that made at least $20 million in its opening week. Fret not, Guillermo: What’s the one movie we could see eclipsing Batman one day? Your upcoming adaptation of “The Hobbit.”

Among other new releases, “Space Chimps” came in seventh with $7.3 million. With “The Dark Knight” leading the way, the top 12 films took in the biggest-ever total gross in box-office history.

Upcoming Releases

“The X-Files: I Want to Believe” parties like it’s 1999, with the continuing adventures of Mulder and Scully. Will Ferrell, meanwhile, is back to his old hijinks with John C. Reilly in “Step Brothers.” But really, expect a second week of “The Dark Knight” on top.

<Check out everything we’ve got on “The Dark Knight,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Hancock.”

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