'Dark Knight Rises' Pacing to Score Biggest Weekend Opening of All Time for 2D Movie

Warner Bros. Pictures

Prerelease tracking indicates Christopher Nolan's final Batman movie will eclipse the $158.4 million opening of his 2008 film "The Dark Knight."

Hollywood was abuzz Monday over the strength of tracking for Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight Rises, which hits theaters in two weeks on July 20.

Box-office observers widely believe that Dark Knight Rises will outperform the $158.4 million opening of The Dark Knight on the same weekend in 2008, then the biggest three-day debut of all time at the domestic box office.

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight remains the top opener of all time in terms of a 2D pic. A pair of 3D films -- May release The Avengers and last year's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  -- claim No. 1 and No. 2 spots with $207.4 million and $169.2 million, respectively.

Overall tracking numbers for Dark Knight Rises aren't that far behind Avengers, but the Christian Bale starrer won't enjoy the boost from the upcharge for a 3D ticket. To boot, Dark Knight Rises runs 164 minutes -- 21 more than Avengers and 12 more than Dark Knight.

Dark Knight Rises has plenty going in its favor. In addition to being the last installment in Nolan's wildly successful Batman trilogy, it should be big draw in several hundred Imax theaters, which charge a premium (Nolan shot more than an hour of the film with Imax cameras).

With The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters, tracking for Dark Knight Rises surged over the weekend. According to those who have seen Monday's tracking numbers, unaided awareness for Dark Knight Rises is 19, compared with 20 for The Avengers. First choice is 30 for Dark Knight Rises, versus 33 for The Avengers. Definite interest in Dark Knight Rises is 66, compared with 65 for Avengers.

Females are slightly less interested in seeing Dark Knight Rises than The Avengers, though Warners marketing operation has two weeks to further woo this demo.