Whether or not The Dark Knight Rises will live up to its Gotham-set predecessor in quality is a matter of hot contention — especially in light of the wide variety of reviews that have come out over the course of the past week. But another question looms: will The Dark Knight Rises actually beat out The Dark Knight at the box office?
For those unaware, Christopher Nolan’s 2008 hit ranks as the twelfth highest grossing picture of all time (having recently being ousted from its Number 11 spot by interloping The Avengers, which has taken the Number 3 position), with an opening weekend gross of approximately $158 million — a world record at the time. But does the final installment of the Batman helmer’s trilogy have the same mass appeal?
Hollywood.com Box Office Analyst Paul Dergarabedian (who has also looked at the new film's odds at beating The Avengers) helped to clarify some of the points that give The Dark Knight Rises the edge over its predecessor. “If you look at the numbers on Batman Begins, they were solid. The opening weekend was $48 million. It didn’t set the world on fire. It wasn’t until the Heath Ledger mystique was created — unfortunately, for a variety of reasons — that the movie was catapulted into a different league.” He continues, “Interest in The Dark Knight Rises was certainly kicked up tremendously by the success of The Dark Knight.”
Paul is optimistic about the new film’s performance — he cites a number of factors that promise a hit:
The Dark Knight Rises’ powerful lead-in:“They left it as sort of a cliffhanger at the end of The Dark Knight. A lot of people are going to be interested in seeing [the next movie].”The strategic release date:“This is a magic day in the middle of July. It’s when they opened Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 last year. It’s when The Dark Knight made that opening weekend record. This is a magic time for Warner Brothers with movies — this mid to late July playing time for blockbusters.”The inclusion of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman:“The only big issue is that the female audience is not into these superhero movies as certain other genres. The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man didn't have a huge preponderance of women. It’s not like they're chasing the female audience. If you can get the female audience to buy off on the Catwoman character — who is terrific, by the way, and who does an absolutely great job in this movie — that could benefit the film for sure. When you have strong female characters, women respond. Look at Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Strong female characters definitely resonate with female audiences.”Branching off this idea, Paul agrees that a robust female presence is something that The Dark Knight lacked, seeing as the lead female character, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes) served as the film’s ill-fated victim rather than as a picture of strength.
Considering all this, Paul has landed in a pretty impressive neighborhood for the movie’s projected opening weekend gross: “If it were to do $175 or $180 million, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. No matter what, I guarantee it’s going to be in the top five opening weekends of all time, if not the top three.”
Of course, Paul is aware that the absence in The Dark Knight Rises of the very maudlin issue that launched Nolan’s second film to such prominence might also be its undoing. “I’m sure there are other schools of thought that say since it doesn’t have the Heath Ledger factor, it can do $150 million,” but he is not discouraged, especially when considering the quality of the picture: “It’s a great movie. It deserves any kind of success that it has. I would nominate it for an Oscar. One of the Best Picture slots, absolutely.”
All in all, Paul understands that the fact that the question is even present proves that The Dark Knight Rises will be a successful, and important, film: “It’s part of the zeitgeist … The fact that we’re talking about it the way we are proves that it’s not just a movie phenomenon, but a cultural phenomenon.”