Long Range Forecast: 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Featured Stories - on May 25, 2012 by BOXOFFICE Staff

july20.pngThis week, we've added director Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises to our Long Range Forecast.  The highly anticipated finale opens in IMAX and 2D theaters beginning at midnight Friday, July 20.

The Dark Knight Rises


- Christopher Nolan.
- The sequel to (at one time) the second highest-grossing film of all-time.  Just as sequels pay for the sins of their predecessors, they also reap the benefits of that which precedes them.
- Prior to The Dark Knight, Batman had broken the opening weekend record three times (Batman, Batman Returns, and Batman Forever) -- twice without featuring The Joker.
- Nolan is more a part of the "draw" than he was four years ago. The Dark Knight and Inception have cemented his status as a name that people in a general audience recognize and are interested in.
- Despite the fanboy appeal of three of his last four films, every film ever directed by Nolan has at least tripled its opening weekend gross through superb word of mouth.  In other words, front-loading has yet to be an issue for his work.
- Marvel's The Avengers ticket sales without the 3D bump would equate to a roughly $180-185 million opening.  With a mid-summer opening and undoubtedly bigger midnight sales, Rises may not break that film's dollar record (due to lacking any 3D price advantage) but could match or exceed it in actual ticket sales.
- All footage screened so far has been very positively received. The fact that the film received its rating over three months in advance indicates that the powers-that-be are very happy with the final result.
- With nearly an hour of IMAX footage (and playing in four times as many of those venues as The Dark Knight did), a long and healthy run in the format is in store.
- Warner Bros. is successfully painting this as the end to a trilogy.  As Fox did with the end of the Star Wars prequels and WB itself with Harry Potter last year, selling this as the conclusion to a story will be effective in the absence of a marketing powerhouse like that of The Joker.
- Trilogy-capper comparisons: the grosses of Revenge of the Sith and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King adjust to $470 million and $487 million, respectively, when considering inflation -- and neither film had an IMAX boost.
- Zero competition. *This* is the competition.
- One of Nolan's fortes up to this point is concluding a story with a crowd-pleasing final act.  If this is applied this to an entire film as part of a bigger arc, it could create yet another "water cooler" discussion topic familiar to most of his films.


- Hype and the curse of the superhero three-quel.  It has undone plenty of films in the past (Superman III, Batman Forever, X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3) and the fan base will be particularly critical of decisions made in this final film.
- Opening closer to the opening of the Olympics than The Dark Knight did in 2008 could be a factor that leads to more front-loading for Rises when compared to that film.
- It is exceedingly difficult to out-perform a predecessor that sold more tickets than all but a handful of films in the last fifteen years.
- The tragic circumstances surrounding Heath Ledger's death brought a lot of extra buzz to the predecessor. Rises won't have that, so how Nolan chooses to end his trilogy will be even more important for the box office performance after opening weekend.

Notable changes in our forecast this week include minor changes on Snow White and the Huntsman, PrometheusBrave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Ted, and Madea's Witness Protection.  In addition, G.I. Joe: Retaliation has been removed from our forecast due to its release date change to March 29, 2013.

Check out our predictions for this and other upcoming films in the table below.

Title Release Date Distributor Opening Weekend Cumulative
The Dark Knight Rises Jul 20, 2012 Warner Bros.
$186,000,000 $520,000,000
Ice Age: Continental Drift Jul 13, 2012 Fox
$59,000,000 $200,000,000
Savages Jul 6, 2012 Universal
$14,000,000 $45,000,000
Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D Jul 5, 2012 Paramount
$17,000,000† $53,000,000
The Amazing Spider-Man Jul 3, 2012 Sony / Columbia
$64,000,000† $233,000,000
Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection Jun 29, 2012 Lionsgate
$20,000,000 $45,000,000
People Like Us Jun 29, 2012 Disney
$6,500,000 $23,000,000
Ted (2012) Jun 29, 2012 Universal
$19,000,000 $65,000,000
Magic Mike Jun 29, 2012 Warner Bros.
$22,000,000 $78,000,000
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Jun 22, 2012 Fox
$18,000,000 $45,000,000
Brave Jun 22, 2012 Disney
$58,000,000 $225,000,000
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Jun 22, 2012 Focus
$13,000,000 $49,000,000
That's My Boy Jun 15, 2012 Sony / Columbia
$30,000,000 $85,000,000
Rock of Ages Jun 15, 2012 Warner Bros.
$33,000,000 $125,000,000
Prometheus Jun 8, 2012 Fox
$57,000,000 $200,000,000
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted Jun 8, 2012 Paramount / DreamWorks
$42,000,000 $140,000,000
Snow White and the Huntsman Jun 1, 2012 Universal
$50,000,000 $140,000,000

† = 3-day weekend (Friday through Sunday)

Phil Contrino, Daniel Garris, Alex Edghill and Shawn Robbins contributed to this article.

Tags: The Dark Knight Rises


  • delfra on 26 May 2012

    I think the box office projection on "The Dark Knight Rises" is too high, and it's too low on "The amazing Spider-Man". I think with TDKR you guys are in decent vacinity, i see around 150-165 million opening, and the final domesctic gross i'll say around 420 million. 520 million i don't see, there's no Joker or no real life tragedy this time to give that kind of push to TDKR. Let's face it Heath Ledger's passing probally gave TDK a good 150+ million boost, anyone who does'nt believe that is being delusional. Would it have been a big hit without Ledger passing, yes, but you don't take that kind of jump in box office gross from Batman Begins to TDKR without some kind of unnatural freak coincidence, which is exactly what happened. Without that unfortunate tragedy i see 370-400 million domestically tops. TDKR will be a big hit, no doubt about it, but i think cats like you have been overestimating this film's box office take way too long, and you'll find out soon enough what i mean by that.

  • delfra on 26 May 2012

    Since i had so much to say, i thought i would separate this with two different posts. As much as you've overestimated TDKR, you have underestimated "The Amazing Spider-Man'. Come on now, this is 'Spidey-Man' here, who do you think you're dealing some second rate superhero. Spidey and Bats are 1-2 in individual superhero popularity, whoever you wanna start with, call them 1 and 1A. I understand that this is a reboot, and the last Spidey film left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths, but you also must remember how popular Spidey is and how successful his films we're. Say what you will about "Spider-Man 3", but remember it still was the biggest international grossing comic book film ever before "The Avengers" hit the scene. It actually made almost 90 million more overseas than "TDK", which i'm assuming you're aware of. Now that obviously has no bearing on domestic box office grosses of course, but i'm just reinstating Spidey's popularity to you guys in case you've forgotten. Now the opening weekend gross can be a little unpredictable since "TASM" opens on a tuesday, so obviously it's would stand to reason that "TASM's" opening weekend numbers would be much higher if it opened on a friday. While i don't see no "Avengers" type numbers or anything, i could see 145-170 over the opening 6 days and 75-100 million over the weekend. I'm thinking "TASM" reaches 300-330 million domestically. I don't know what it is with you guys and Marvel films, but you guys we're w-ayyyy off on "The Avengers", by almost 40 million, yes i keep count.

  • JEG on 27 May 2012

    I'm also curious about The Amazing Spider-Man. Your projections are for Friday to Sunday. But the film opens on a Tuesday. So it will be opened for three days before the weekend even hits. Will it not even do bigger business it's first three days then it's first weekend? And the absence of GI Joe will only help it's box office numbers. That has to have some bearing when you update your projections. Hopefully someone can help me out here, why isn't the first three days projected?

    I agree DELFRA. TASM is being underestimated. Being a reboot, I see alot of people pointing to Batman Begins as a comparison for box office. SM3 was a disaappointment, but not to the degree that alot of people make it out to be. It's not like B&R or X3. And if a $64 m opening weekend comes in it's 4th, 5th and 6th days of release, then that is pretty damn strong for even a non tentpole reboot imo.

  • JEG on 27 May 2012

    And if the 3D is as great as people who have seen footage are saying, then that's another wildcard in the equation. Real 3D, not conversion. We like to focus on domestic, but 3D is HUGE overseas. So even when TDKR is open it won't be competing for the 3D market as well. This will be an even bigger component overseas then in NA. I would be surprised if it doesn't do 750 m + WW....

  • JEG on 27 May 2012

    I meant to say strong for a tentpole that isn't a reboot....

What do you think?