'Dark Knight' sales below forecasts after shooting
By Ronald Grover and Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES, July 22 (Reuters) - "The Dark Knight Rises" recorded strong ticket sales in its opening weekend, but well below forecasts given by many in Hollywood, as some moviegoers appeared to have stayed away after a shooting rampage at a midnight showing of the film on Friday.
The film grossed an estimated $162 million in showings through Sunday in U.S. and Canadian movie theaters, according to studio estimates from people with knowledge of the data. That was lower than the $173 million that had been projected on Saturday based on Friday receipts.
"The Dark Knight Rises" was one of the most-anticipated films of the year before a gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, early Friday, killing 12 and wounding 58 more.
Before the shooting, box office forecasters had predicted sales in a range of $170 million to $198 million from Friday through Sunday, just shy of the record $207 million set by superhero movie "The Avengers" in May.
A spokeswoman for Warner Brothers, which produced "Dark Knight," had no comment.
Fox's animated family movie "Ice Age: Continental Drift," which grossed $44.6 million last week and was the top-selling film, had a larger-than-anticipated 51 percent drop for its second week. It grossed $21 million, box office sources said.
"The Amazing Spider-Man," which opened with near-record sales on July 3, collected $10.5 million over the weekend. The film, produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment, had passed $217 million in domestic sales on Thursday, according to Box Office Mojo.
Universal Pictures' raucous comedy "Ted," about a man and his foul-mouthed teddy bear, notched $10.1 million at the box office. Disney's animated film "Brave" grossed $5.8 million.
Official figures were not released by movie studios for the first time box office watchers could remember, as the companies withheld weekend results in deference for the shooting victims. Full results are expected on Monday.
"The cable news networks were wall-to-wall with the shooting, so it had some shock value that will keep people away," former Columbia Pictures marketing chief Peter Sealey said. "But it will be short-term. This movie will play for five or six weeks and still do great business."
After the shooting, theaters tightened security, and Warner Bros. scaled back promotional plans, canceling a Paris premiere and appearances by the cast and crew in Mexico and Japan.
A representative for 20th Century Fox, which released "Ice Age," was not available for comment, and a spokesman for Sony Pictures, which is behind "Spider-Man," declined to comment.
"Dark Knight Rises" is the third and final film in a popular Batman series starring Christian Bale as the crime-fighting hero and directed by Christopher Nolan. Warner Bros. spent $250 million to produce it, plus tens of millions on marketing.
On Friday, the studio said showings just after midnight had grossed $30.6 million in the North American (U.S. and Canadian) market. Warner Bros. later said it would not release any updated sales figures until Monday.
"The Dark Knight" took in $158 million domestically over its debut weekend in July 2008, a record at the time. It went on to ring up sales of more than $1 billion around the world.