The fact that the latest Batman movie will top the box office is a foregone conclusion, cemented when "The Dark Knight" opened with $158 million four years ago and went on to gross more than half a billion dollars domestically. Simply put, "The Dark Knight Rises" is one of the most anticipated movies of all time.
So the question isn't "will 'The Dark Knight Rises' be #1 this weekend?" No, the real question is "Can it beat 'The Avengers'?" It's the classic Marvel Comics vs. DC Comics battle that has played out among funny book fans for decades, only this time, onscreen.
"Marvel's The Avengers" had the benefit of pricier 3-D screenings and a shorter running time than "DKR," which means theaters were likely able to squeeze in at least one more screening a day. These factors "will certainly put a dent in its bat-bucks," Jeff Bock quipped to MTV News.
"We may actually see 'The Dark Knight Rises' sell more tickets but make less money than 'The Avengers,' " added Bock, the box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Company. "Even though 'The Dark Knight Rises' will probably shatter IMAX records, it's very doubtful that Batman can bust through the $200 million barrier given its handicaps."
Edward Douglas, the associate editor at ComingSoon.net and the writer behind the site's Weekend Warrior column, also pointed out the difference in subject matter and tone between the two comic book flicks. " 'The Avengers' was an easier choice for parents to bring their kids. The darkness of 'The Dark Knight Rises' may keep parents with kids under 10 from bringing them."
Speaking of the story, the last Batman movie benefited greatly from the presence of the most well-known member of Bat's rogue's gallery, the Joker. Heath Ledger's performance earned the late actor a posthumous Oscar. But "The Dark Knight Rises" features Bane as the villain, a character more familiar to comic fans than the general public.
"The Joker to Bane -- there is no comparison," Bock said. "And Ledger's untimely demise created a firestorm of media coverage that helped propel the franchise from mediocre to one of Hollywood's crown jewels. 'Batman Begins' debuted with $48 million. 'The Dark Knight' debuted with $158 million!"
Douglas said the popularity of Catwoman will counterbalance the relative obscurity of Bane. "Anne Hathaway is popular among women and will help convince them to go see the movie, whereas many of them may have gone to see 'The Dark Knight' due to the Heath Ledger factor."
So how much will "The Dark Knight Rises" make? "I can see it opening to more than $180 million this weekend," Box Office Guru editor Gitesh Pandya told MTV News. "It will certainly beat the last movie's record as the biggest debut ever for a 2-D film."
"We should expect a significant bump on opening weekend, probably $30 million or more than 'The Dark Knight,' partially due to ticket price inflation but also because many of the people who saw 'Dark Knight' after opening weekend and enjoyed it will go out to see this new one earlier," Douglas agreed.
"It will easily reach $1 billion worldwide, but it's doubtful it will catch 'The Avengers,' " Bock said.
"The Avengers," of course, also benefitted from a lack of major competition in May.
"I don't think 'The Dark Knight Rises' will have nearly as much legs," Douglas said. "With action movies such as 'Total Recall' and 'The Bourne Legacy' coming out in August, I think those will actually fare better than they might have if 'The Dark Knight Rises' was a home run. Even though reviews have generally been positive, they're not as overwhelmingly positive as 'The Dark Knight.' Some fans may be disappointed because expectations are so high."
With Nolan and Bale both ducking out of the franchise after this one, the clock is already ticking for Warner Bros. to follow in the footsteps of Sony and "The Amazing Spider-Man," which rebooted the character a mere five years after the last trilogy concluded. "It won't be long until Warner reboots the Bat, no doubt," Bock predicted. "With over $2.6 billion in worldwide grosses, they can't afford to leave Batman in his cave for very long. I'd love to see a 'Justice League' movie!"
"I think we'll see another 'Batman' movie within the next five years," Douglas agreed.
"I think it will be wise for Warner to wait a number of years," Pandya countered. "There was an eight-year gap between the Clooney/Schwarzenegger monstrosity [1997's 'Batman and Robin'] and Nolan's reboot. That's a good amount of time to resurrect a popular character and fans should be game for a new interpretation."
Check out everything we've got on "The Dark Knight Rises."