'Dark Knight' has record run to $200 mil mark

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Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" has sprinted to $200 million in just five days, faster than any movie in history and swift enough to get the prognosticators prognosticating big time.

The speediest $200 million grosser had been Sony's "Spider-Man 2," which raced past that mark in its first eight days after unspooling June 30, 2004, according to Nielsen EDI data.

But industry figures will scrutinize the "Batman Begins" sequel's performance for pace and longevity. So far, an analysis of EDI data shows "Dark Knight" on target to reach $450 million domestically, with a more distant shot at $500 million or more.

Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" — considered roughly comparable to "Dark Knight" based on release date and audience — fetched $423.3 million in domestic grosses after debuting July 7, 2006. Yet even before its second weekend in release, speculation has begun that "Dark Knight" will prove substantially more lucrative than the first "Pirates" sequel.

That's based primarily on the record $158.4 million opening for "Dark Knight." Barring precipitous drops during future frames — and this week's daily grosses would seem to indicate otherwise — the sheer scope of its colossal early success suggests a more lucrative theatrical run.

Should the Warners film prove equally as leggy as "Dead Man's Chest" during coming frames, "Dark Knight" could reach $496 million. That would make it the second-best domestic grosser ever after "Titanic," which grossed $600.8 million domestically and $1.84 billion worldwide after bowing in December 1997.

If "Dark Knight" somehow can muster an even better market hold than the "Pirates" sequel" — a tough proposition, given the relatively modest 54% drop of "Dead Man's Chest" during its second weekend — the Christian Bale starrer could develop into a $500 million-plus performer.

The coming weekend surely will see "Dark Knight" mark a big Friday-to-Friday drop, as the film's first day in release boasted thousands of midnight and early morning showtimes that won't be duplicated this Friday. That has Warners execs expecting a likely big weekend-to-weekend drop as well during the coming frame.

"Maybe Saturday and Sunday we'll hold like a rock, but I just don't know," Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said.

Internationally, "Dark Knight" has fetched $53.4 million from the 20 territories in which it's bowed so far, with foreign openings set to continue into August.

Hy Hollinger contributed to this report.
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