The Dark Knight Sets Monday Box Office Record. Also: Strange Audience Observations, Why This Film Matters, and Online Snobs
Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
According to Box Office Mojo, The Dark Knight grossed $24.5 million on Monday and set yet another record: biggest non-holiday Monday of all time. On Tuesday, the film grossed $20+ million, coming in second place for Top Tuesday behind Transformers, bringing it to $204 million domestically. The film is scheduled to earn more in its first week than any other film in history. The movie is a flat-out cultural phenomenon earning comparisons to Titanic. And I’ve spoken with a number of people who have shared odd conversations heard amongst general moviegoers waiting on line to see it. Previously, we reported that 64% of TDK viewers plan on seeing it again. Here are a few other “phenomenon” stats for moviegoers we’d be curious to see.
A) The number of people going to see The Dark Knight that do not realize it’s a sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins. For example, this conversation occurred while on line before my second viewing: John Doe: “Why is this movie called The Dark Knight and not Batman?” Jane Doe: “I guess there are those three other Batman movies.” Of course, TDK is the sixth major Batman film. I guess these moviegoers can be filed under The Joker Factor. (Some commenters have labeled it the “dumbass factor.”) So many people equate Batman with The Joker that all the previous Joker-less efforts fly below their radar. Also, some people are clearly just buying tickets to see Heath Ledger, others just dig the “dead guy factor.” But I’m getting the sense that for a surprising amount of viewers, Batman Begins doesn’t register. You?
B) The number of moviegoers that think the film is a “prequel” to 1989’s Batman, and the number that have only seen the ’89 and ’08 films. The former crowd may sound ridiculous, but considering the huge and diverse crowds TDK is pulling in, again, not so much. I’ve talked with people on both coasts who have overheard this misconception at theaters big and small over the weekend, and not just amongst the olds. Some commenters have said that Slashfilm must have “dumbass radar,” but let’s continue. ;)
On Monday’s /filmcast, Kevin Smith added that, in his opinion, anticipation for TDK did not surpass that for 1989’s Batman. He then proceeded to offer our staff handjobs, but staying on topic, Smith has a point—though most 20somethings who experienced both flicks sans handjobs would disagree with him. Tim Burton‘s first film and Chris Nolan‘s second may be regarded by many un-geeks as related bookends existing outside their own (and the nippled) franchises. Of course these two films are unrelated, but in a way they are forever coupled in how they define the ways in which our culture, movies and moviegoers have changed in the 20 years between them. For instance, compare Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel Dawes. Compare the ’89 Joker throwing money out to the insatiable, rioting masses to the ’08 Joker’s boat party, where the masses undergo a post-911 soul search (some would say a creatively forced and false one). Compare the seedy, steam-spiraling streets of ’89 Gotham to ’08 Gotham’s sleek, brightly lit modernity (which is evidently poverty free? And has way more trustfunders). Compare Burton’s pulpy, highly rewatchable popcorn fantasy with Nolan’s weighty tome of politics, terrorism and philosophy. Compare the number of teenage moviegoers, then and now, who are familiar with the work of Frank Miller.
Back in ’89, the Batman logo seemed to physically blanket the country. In ’08, TDK signifies the power that digital buzz has in luring even the most infrequent moviegoers into physical spaces. Smith said he didn’t feel the IRL buzz for TDK like he did with Batman, but he should consider the attached Watchmen trailer. Only three years ago, not to mention back in ’89, such a trailer would have received laughs not only due to “the funny-looking Batman wannabe,” but also due to general audiences’ unfamiliarity with this provocative cult property. Now? Those same laffers are shutting off their snark and pondering their cultural disconnect. As Peter noted, you can literally intercept the thoughts of general moviegoers’ as this trailer screens. (And yeah, Slashfilm likes Scanners.)
Moreover, consider all of the trailers playing in front of TDK. ‘Net influence is currently consolidated into comic book/genre films, sure, but it’s absolutely jaw-dropping how the game has changed in the 10+ years since the arrival of “spoilers” and leaks. We did this. Where does it go from here? Back in ’89, I wasn’t within six degrees of Tim Burton, now a 13-year-old fanboy is six degrees to Zack Snyder. More on this below.
C) The number of people going to see The Dark Knight that haven’t seen a movie in a theater in six months or a year. AKA: The “ask your mom” test. The number of these viewers, though small in comparison to the boffo grosses, is probably suprising and would further solidify the film as a cultural phenomenon. Also, there are definitely fantasy moguls and real ones out there who feel that TDK will eventually overtake Titanic, and these stats would offer further support. (DiCaprio can finally cease moping.)
While we’re at it: there are those online that have expressed snobby bafflement at why Slashfilm seems so “invested” in this film’s success. Do I rank TDK in the top 10 films of all time? Nope. Moreover, I’ll agree that the film is not perfect, and I would not compare it to The Godfather (any of them, though it’s certainly better than the third). But TDK is the superlative result—forever a touchstone—of millions of genre fans pushing a boulder up a cliff year after year dating back to AICN’s crazy salad days (figurative ;) and up to Slashfilm’s DIY rise and popularity. Not only does a film like TDK benefit Slashfilm and our readers’ tastes, but what these aforementioned baffled snobs do not grasp—even with Comic-Con 2008 booming—is that movies and movie going have changed forever. TDK is the geek community’s Harvey Dent, anointed after an incredibly long fundraiser. Even the way in which many moviegoers think about and absorb a film as they watch it has changed dramatically. This realization has and will continue to scare the shit out of film professors and dead tree critics for years to come. It’s called immersionism, old dudes (and snobs).
In the future, will all of us carry converted Wayfarers into an IMAX and bask in kitschy cool 3D? I’m not so sure. I think we’re much more likely to look up and see our and our friends’ digital fingerprints clearly imprinted on what’s playing on the screen, rather than experiencing the nth T. rex blasting laser beams right at our stoned clones. The populism of summer has always pissed off contrarians and indie lovers (and to some degree, point taken, yet AGAIN), but these people are not seeing the bigger literal picture, maybe because they are not yet—and maybe they simply cannot be—a part of it.Cool Posts From Around the Web: