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‘Dark Knight’ heads to $200 million

Film grosses $24.6 million on Monday

Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight” barely slowed down as it grossed a record-breaking $24.6 million at the domestic box office Monday and plowed toward the $200 million mark, sporting a cume of $182.9 million in its four days.

That’s the best gross on the books for a non-holiday Monday, and the fourth-best ever for the day, holiday or not. It’s not that far behind the $27.7 million earned by “Spider-Man 2” on its first Monday, which fell over the Fourth of July holiday frame. (In May 2007, “Spider-Man 3” grossed $10.3 million on its first Monday.)

“Dark Knight,” playing in 4,366 runs, should earn north of $230 million in its first week. Current record-holdover for best opening week is “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which earned $196 million in its first seven days.

In terms of “Dark Knight’s” potential, studio distribution chiefs now expect the tentpole to gross north of $400 million domestically. Pic is rolling out more slowly overseas, but took in a boffo $40 million as it launched in only 20 territories over the weekend. Film held its international premiere Monday night in London.

The success of “Dark Knight” is sure to result in studio chiefs looking at late July in an entirely different way. Generally speaking, studios avoid opening their bigger tentpoles so late in the summer, considering how crowded the playing field is.

“Dark Knight,” along with the successful bow of Universal musical “Mamma Mia!,” proved that the market will expand if moviegoers have a reason. Weekend saw total box office sales reach a record breaking $260.7 million.

Monday’s overall gross of $37.7 million was the best ever for a non-holiday. “Mamma Mia!” grossed $4 million from 2,976 runs on Monday for a cume of $31.8 million in its first four days. Film debuted to $27.7 million over the weekend, narrowly beating out “Hairspray” to nab the best opening gross ever for a bigscreen musical.

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