The Reject Report: July 18

It’s all about The Dark Knight here at the Reject Report — almost, anyway, because Mamma Mia! is also rolling out — and the question everyone has is whether this movie is going to be the one to shatter all the box office records.

We know the critics have been hailing this movie like crazy, with the few dissenters reportedly being ostracized and criticized by the fans. We know the hype is through the roof, with the usual interest from the comic-book fans and heightened interest in Heath Ledger’s final riveting performance. And it’s translated into a huge theater count. We don’t know if any records will fall as far as daily or 3-day gross are concerned but we do know this: at 4,366 theaters, this is the largest theater count for a domestic release of all time.

So a record has fallen before the midnight screenings are even held! And we are hearing reports of sellouts all over North America. But there is competition at the theaters this weekend in Mamma Mia! and Space Chimps. So it will be a much more interesting weekend at theaters than anyone has a right to expect.

I want to keep everyone in suspense some more about The Dark Knight and its prospects, so what I am going to do is get these other two pretenders out of the way first, and then I will concentrate on the Caped Crusader. Suffice it to say I will start off by raking the people over the coals at Universal and Fox, respectively, for allowing Mamma Mia! and Space Chimps to open wide this weekend against The Dark Knight. What are these distribution people smoking? And drinking, for that matter? These two movies are going to get killed.

Amanda Seifried in Mamma MiaMamma Mia! is based upon the wildly successful stage production that took London’s west end, Broadway and everywhere else by storm. I know all about it: I lived in Toronto for a lot of years and Mamma Mia! ran there forever. It was a huge freaking hit there, so everyone in these big cities knows all about Mamma Mia! and what it’s about. According to the blurb over at IMDB, this is “the story of a bride-to-be trying to find her real father told using hit songs by the popular 70s group ABBA.” Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Meryl Streep are part of the big cast.

Now, this flick is already a huge hit worldwide. It finished at the top of the UK box office, opening in first place with 5.2 million pounds. So this flick has been raking in the cash all over Europe. Now, here’s the question I have. Why the heck didn’t they release this flick one week earlier in the USA?! It defies common sense to put this flick up against The Dark Knight, when it could have opened one week earlier and possibly done better business. Heck, Universal could have released Mamma Mia! last week and held off on Hellboy II until later in the summer, and this ABBA-themed flick probably would have made $40 million dollars! It’s a strange decision, one that is about to blow up in Universal’s face.

Needless to say, I’m not impressed. I am predicting $21 million dollars for Mamma Mia, which is something like $10 or $20 million less than what it ought to have made — all because the timing of this release SUCKS. I know the theater count is almost 3,000, but who cares: everyone at the multiplex is going to be there to see Harvey Dent.

Next is Space Chimps and all I have to say about this release is that this movie has already been buried so badly by The Dark Knight that I question whether anyone is even aware that this movie is opening this weekend. The prevailing attitude is summed up by the famous last words “who cares?”

Space Chimps is based on a computer-animated video game of the same name and features astronaut chimps who are sent to a far-away galaxy. And to put it mildly, these chimps ain’t exactly John Glenn or Neil Armstrong. Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines and Jeff Daniels are the featured voices.

Heath Ledger in The Dark KnightAnyway, I’m done talking about this movie. $5 million is my prediction for Space Chimps. And now onto The Dark Knight.

The name of the movie is probably most associated with that limited release of Batman comic books in 1986 by Frank Miller, called “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” In that series Batman came out of retirement to do battle with the forces of evil. That reinvigorated the Batman franchise and we saw a number of other “Dark Knight” comics come from the DC banner. Anyway, we now have the movie The Dark Knight, which picks up the story from after Batman Begins. Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman, continuing his fight against organized crime in Gotham City. It’s a challenge so daunting that Batman must contemplate devoting his entire life to fighting the criminals, with no end in sight. There is hope on the horizon with the arrival on the scene of crime-busting district attorney Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart), who may take over the fight. But onto the scene comes the villanous Joker, played by Heath Ledger. Batman must renew his crime-fighting ways against the Joker while Harvey Dent morphs into the frightening Two-Face. The film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, Wayne’s love interest, and it features performances from Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, you name it. It’s directed by Christopher Nolan who co-wrote it with his brother Jonathan Nolan.

I don’t need to say much more about the plot of the movie, because everyone is sick to death by now of all the articles about this flick that have been all over the websites. Heck, Film School Rejects has done The Dark Knight to death by now. People just want to see the movie and get on with it.

Obviously, this is the most anticipated movie that we have seen in a long, long time, and a lot of it has to do with Heath Ledger. There’s the obvious freak-show factor involved with seeing a posthumous performance on-screen, but the consensus is that Ledger is scary-good in the role and could be up for an Oscar. And superhero movies just cannot go wrong at the box office these days, it seems. So many of them have finished in first place at the box office that it is a joke. This plus the Ledger factor make it the perfect storm for a big performance at the box office.

The only concern is about the running time (152 minutes) hindering repeat performances, plus competition from two other new movies and the usual batch of holdovers from last weekend. This should not be much of an issue because Space Chimps and Mamma Mia! are going after different audiences. Besides, they are going to be roadkill in the Dark Knight express anyway. When you think of it, there isn’t much out there that can compete with The Dark Knight for the next few weeks when you think of it. This movie is going to make so much money that it’s going to be a joke (pardon the pun).

Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark KnightThe movie opens at 12:01 AM Friday morning with midnight showings on 3,000 screens. There are reports of sellouts all over North America (almost 4,000 at last report) and sold-out IMAX theaters just about everywhere. The Dark Knight was up to fifth among MovieTicket.com’s top five presale list of all time, and that was as of two hours before midnight. As well, we are hearing reports that there are round-the-clock screenings, including 6am showings planned at many theaters. Now, that is ridiculous, ladies and gentlemen. Who wants to go see a movie at six-o-freaking clock in the freaking morning?! I don’t care if it’s The Dark Knight! Midnight movies I can understand, but this?!? This is INSANE, but the fact that they are even showing this thing on screens at 6am says a lot.

From what I gather The Dark Knight is going to propel the theaters to their biggest weekend of box office business in history. Whether The Dark Knight will set records all by itself is a story in itself. I think right now the Friday record COULD be in jeopardy, though it will be a tall order to top the $151 million that Spider-Man 3 took in for its opening weekend in 2007. The Friday/opening day record is 59 million, held by Spider-Man 3. The Saturday record is $51 million, held by Spidey 3, and the Sunday record is $39.9 million. Again, held by Spidey 3.

So these are the records that are on the line this weekend — and as I have said earlier, this is the widest theater count ever. I gotta say, it’s really nice to even talk about records being in jeopardy, for a change, because we haven’t talked about records falling in a long time.

Any opening over $100 million will be the biggest of the year. Lots of people are predicting that The Dark Knight will make it to $130 million and some are even daring to predict it will beat $151 million.

Now my fearless prediction: The Dark Knight this weekend will make… $136 million!!

Aaaargh!!! Yes, a big weekend for the Batman, but also one with a lot of competition, enough to make a small dent and prevent a complete steamroller. But this will be the weekend of The Dark Knight. No question about it, this is a great weekend to be a movie fan.

My predicted order of finish:

1. The Dark Knight $136 million
2. Mamma Mia! $21 million
3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army $16 million
4. Hancock $15 million
5. Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D $10 million
6. WALL-E $9.5 million
7. Wanted $6 million
8. Space Chimps
$5 million
9. Get Smart
$4.5 million
10. Meet Dave $2.3 million

See you later with all the weekend numbers! We’ll see if any records have fallen.


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