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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Dark Knight Selling Out Three Weeks Early

Batman fans anxious to get a glimpse of the late Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker are snatching up tickets online more than three weeks before The Dark Knight's July 17 premiere.

Dozens of midnight screenings of director Christopher Nolan's second installment in the bat-franchise have sold out, causing theaters across the country to tack on 3 a.m. showings to meet fan demand, according to online ticket retailer Fandango.

"We are currently seeing a surge in advance ticket sales," said Ted Hong, vice president of marketing for Fandango, which first began selling tickets for Dark Knight last Friday. "It makes sense that there's a rush for tickets -- it looks action-packed and film fans are anxious to see Heath Ledger."

When Fandango polled members back in March to determine which summer blockbusters its customers were most interested in, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull took first place, with Dark Knight coming in second. However, the scramble for advance Dark Knight tickets is currently outpacing Indy 4's presale numbers.

Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock said he thinks the presale surge was to be expected.

"This movie comes in riding a wave of hype [Batman Begins] didn't," said Bock. He also attributes the rush to fans anxious to see Ledger portray Batman's warped nemesis in what could be the actor's last on-screen performance. Ledger died in January of an overdose of prescription drugs at age 28.

Joel Cohen, executive vice president at ticketing hub, said Dark Knight is doing remarkably well, even though advance sales for Nolan's previous bat-flick, Batman Begins, were practically nonexistent in 2005.

"It's tracking much stronger than Spider-Man 3 at the same time in the sales cycle," he said. Director Sam Raimi's second Spidey sequel went on last year to set the record for best opening weekend ever.

A massive viral-marketing campaign for Dark Knight, along with a glowing advance review by Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers, is adding fuel to bat-fire.

Exhibitor Relations' Bock predicts the Warner Bros. film could push well beyond $100 million in its opening weekend. In May, Marvel's superhero flick Iron Man garnered $102.1 million during its opening weekend, while Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull pulled in $100.1 million.

The question on the tip of every fanboy and girl's tongue is, will this film be able to outpace Spider-Man 3's record-shattering opening weekend of $151 million?

"That record would be really tough to break," said Bock. "But we're expecting really big things."
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