"The Dark Knight Rises" is expected to top the box office this weekend, even as a sizable portion of moviegoers remain hesitant to return to theaters in the wake of the recent national tragedy. Just last week, 12 people were killed and 58 wounded during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.
Research firm NRG reported that roughly 20 percent of people polled said they were reluctant to head back to the movies. Box-office watchers still predict a second weekend of at least $60 million for Christopher Nolan's last entry in his Batman trilogy, on the heels of its $160 million three-day debut.
"Theatrical exhibition has never witnessed a tragedy like this inside a movie theater, so it is extremely difficult to gauge the ramifications of this nightmare scenario," Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, told MTV News. "This was mindless violence at its worst. One thing is for certain: Families will be much more cautious about bringing their brood to the theaters [for a while]. It's a natural reaction to do everything you can as a parent or guardian to protect the ones you love.
"In that respect, this tragic event may hurt [the box office], although even discussing that seems a bit trite when we're talking about the loss of lives," he added. "Hopefully, the fear and sadness this creates will not override the joy we take out watching movies and living our lives."
Last weekend, Warner Bros. opted not to release opening numbers until the following Monday. The other major studios followed suit. Earlier this week, "The Dark Knight Rises" star Christian Bale visited some of the victims of the Colorado shooting in the hospital while various folks associated with the film expressed their sympathy.
Bock pointed out that audiences looking for comedic escapism will have "The Watch" -- starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade -- as a new choice this weekend, in addition to the mega-hit "Ted."
"The Watch" stars the ensemble as a group of neighbors who stumble upon an alien invasion. The new R-Rated comedy had some unfortunate challenges of its own due to real-life gun violence. The film's original title, "Neighborhood Watch," was changed following the alleged shooting of Trayvon Martin by self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman. Bock predicted a $28 million debut for the flick.
For "Step Up Revolution," the first in the "Step Up" series to not be financed by Disney, Bock predicted a modest $13 million debut. "Without the distribution muscle of Disney, it's doubtful this fourth incarnation will offer up any new moves," he explained.
Whatever the longterm impact of the tragic mass murder in Denver on theaters, industry folks were optimistic that movie fans will prove resilient.
"My heart -- and everyone's, I'm sure -- goes out to the victims and families," Bock said. "I still can't believe this actually happened as it will take quite some time to fully comprehend this tragedy."
Check out everything we've got on "The Dark Knight Rises."