'Knight' Burns Brightly at Box Office

Holy ka-ching, Batman! "The Dark Knight" is still flying high.

Since opening at midnight Thursday, the Batman Begins sequel has become:

• The fastest movie to reach $200 million. It took five days; "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "Spider-Man3" did it in eight.

• The No. 2 Monday grosser and No. 2 Tuesday grosser, with $24.5 million and $20.9 million, respectively. Quite a feat considering the record holders ("Spider-Man 2", "Transformers") were released during holiday periods.

"Most movies would kill to do that on a weekend night," says analyst Gitesh Pandya, who runs BoxOfficeGuru.com. "That tells you this movie will have long-term playability. It's incredible."

A lot more green will roll in this weekend, says Jeff Bock, an analyst at box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. He expects the PG-13 film to at least match "Shrek 2's" record for the second-weekend gross ($72.2 million).

"I'd bet the Batcave on it," Bock says.

Dan Fellman, distribution chief for Warner Bros., which released "The Dark Knight", predicts the movie will also be the fastest to get to $300 million. "The major summer films, for the most part, have opened," he says. "The competition isn't bulked up."

Advance sales at movie-ticket sites have stayed high. Says Rick Butler, chief operating officer of Fandango.com: "It's our strongest post-release seller of all time."

A lot of that is because of return customers.

"By Sunday, we were getting an enormous amount of repeat business," Fellman says. And at Fandango, a survey of people who had seen the movie indicated that 64% planned to see it again.

And no one thinks star Christian Bale's arrest Tuesday after a dustup with his mother and sister can stop this Batmobile. "The Dark Knight", Bock says, "is such a juggernaut that it's not going to matter. It's on a trajectory all its own."

As Dark Knight producer Charles Roven sees the numbers come in, "I'm scratching my head in a very happy way.

"I've been doing this for a while," he says. "I made my first film ("Heart Like a Wheel") in 1983. I've had what I thought was a lot of success, but never anything like this."

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