Even. Better. Than. Best. Dark Knight's Now @ $158.3m

Update 7/21 12:20pm - And the news gets even better for Warner Bros. While there was some industry scuttlebutt over the weekend that the studio might have slightly overestimated The Dark Knight's Sunday box office figures, according to Monday's Variety they actually underestimated them. The studio has raised its estimates for the film's Sunday take and the full record weekend tally now stands at $158.3 million.

Warners also estimates the film could gross as much as $220 million in its first week, more than the entire $205m domestic gross of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

The raised Sunday estimates (which likely reflect an all-time record for that day, again besting Spider-Man 3) will likely be seen as a positve sign as to the film's potential "legs".

The film is also doing brisk business in the limited markets it has opened overseas, outpacing both Hancock and Iron Man in the same regions by over 35%, portending a healthy foreign market.

Update 7/20 11:45am - Warner Bros. tells the AP The Dark Knight will gross an estimated $155.34m in domestic box office receipts this weekend, a new record figure that will best Spider-Man 3's then record take of $151.1m last year. While this means The Dark Knight likely didn't beat Spider-Man 3's other record, best Saturday gross ever at $51.3m, it does mean its only a matter of time before Dark Knight claims the 2008 box office crown and the question will be how high will its totals go and how 'front-loaded' its grosses will be?

The factors working for The Dark Knight having strong legs in the coming weeks:

- The media frenzy surrounding the film (aided in part by Heath Ledger's performance) is helping it cross over to a mainstream pop culture event, which may draw moviegoers who only rarely venture out to the multiplex or might not normally be inclined towards superhero/action-adventure fare.

- A universally glowing critical and word-of mouth-factor that studio executives can only dream about.

- A complex film with a relatively long running time will probably enjoy brisk repeat business by the hardcore fan base.

And against:

Perhaps the one factor not in The Dark Knight's favor is that as well documented, the film may not be friendly to younger pre-teen audiences.

Look for much more on this record-setting box office weekend over the next couple of days here at Newsarama...

Update 7/19 11:20am - A Warner Bros. executive tells the Associated Press The Dark Knight has set a single-day box office record by taking in $66.4 million on Friday.

According to Variety , The Dark Knight saw a one-day box office of somewhere between $60 and $63 million, a total which includes $18.5 million from midnight shows alone. The total gives Warner Bros. Batman movie the best box office single-day opening ever, besting Spider-Man 3, which saw $59.8 million on its opening Friday last year.

For a little context, 2005’s Batman Begins brought in $15 million on its opening day and a total of $48.7 million during its first three days in theaters in 2005. The Dark Knight, which has seen unprecedented publicity and hype over the course of the last three months, opened on a record-setting 4,366 screens nationwide.

As for the full weekend, Batman once again has his sights set for Spider-Man, with the trade predicting that the film could take the top non-holiday weekend opening crown from Spider-Man 3 is business stays as strong as expected. Spider-Man 3’s opening weekend: $151.1 million.

Check back throughout the weekend for more updates.

Need more? Check out Newsarama's Gotham Central - <a href=/467-gotham-central-a-dark-knight-story-index.html>A Dark Knight Story Index</a>

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