The Dark Knight Rises may have made more than $50 million below its record-breaking projection in its opening frame this past weekend, but that didn’t stop it from surpassing The Dark Knight and earning the highest-ever opening weekend for a film that wasn’t released in 3D.
Weighing in at just under $161 million, the film also managed to rank the third-highest opening of all time, behind The Avengers and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.
It’s difficult to judge what this means for the film’s long-term box office prospects, or for the actual interest level in seeing Christopher Nolan’s Batman finale. While most experts are pinning the failure to meet expectations on moviegoer fears following Friday’s tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, it’s hard to gauge what, if any, impact that will have beyond the first or second week of release.
In many cases, it wouldn’t be surprising to see most moviegoers returning to theaters after the first week or so, but a near-riot at a Pittsburgh screening of the film, and the arrest in Maine of a man who admitted having carried a loaded gun into a screening of the movie, indicate that things aren’t back to normal yet.
The Pittsburgh incident was precipitated when two audience members got into a shouting match and one of them apparently said something to spark panic in the rest of the audience. The Daily Mail reports that at least two members of the audience were injured when a crowd trampled them trying to evacuate the theater. In Maine, Gawker reports that Timothy Courtois was pulled over for driving more than 100 miles per hour and soon thereafter confessed to police that he had just left a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, during which he had carried a loaded handgun in his back, and that he on his way to murder his ex-boss. In addition to the concealed handgun, he reportedly had newspaper clippings describing the Aurora shooting and at least four other guns, including an AK-47 in the car with him.
Incidents like these are likely to extend the window during which audiences are apprehensive about returning to the cinema, impacting not only The Dark Knight Rises but all theatrical releases across the board. On the other hand, if you assume Box Office Mojo’s tracking numbers were accurate last week, that means at least $50 million worth of potential ticket revenue didn’t show up in the opening weekend and, as the tragedy seems more distant in the past, it’s not entirely unlikely that all or most of those potential viewers will check out the film, potentially extending its box office reign in spite of the upcoming releases of Sony’s Total Recall and Universal’s The Bourne Legacy.