60% drop expected for 'Dark Knight Rises'

“The Dark Knight Rises” is once again carrying the torch at the U.S. box office.

According to early returns, Warners’ Batman threequel is poised to earn between $18 million to $20 million on Friday, putting the tentpole on track for a weekend haul in the low-$60 millions — about a 60% week-over-week drop.

This comes days after an NRG poll suggested 20-25% of audiences would steer clear of plexes following the deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. that left 12 people dead and 59 others injured. But according to execs, “The Dark Knight Rises” is holding OK, all things considered.

The pic’s week-to-week drop-off is currently behind “The Dark Knight” (52%) and “The Avengers” (50%) but that may just be the result of the movie’s audience makeup.

“It’s a lot darker and male-driven,” one analyst says of “TDKR,” suggesting the villain Bane and the trailer’s explosive football scene may be turning off female viewers. Tonight’s Olympic Opening Ceremony rebroadcast is another distraction.

Worldwide, “The Dark Knight Rises” has grossed over $375 million through Thursday.

20th Century Fox’s “The Watch,” meanwhile, doesn’t appear to be ticking. The R-rated sci-fi laffer starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill is tracking between $14 million and $16 million for the weekend, hardly out-of-this-world numbers considering the $70 million pricetag.

“‘The Watch’ had a problem on tracking before the Colorado shootings,” one exec observes. “When you look at those three guys, Ben Stiller and Jonah hill and Vince Vaughn, they all have the same exact audience; you’re not getting 1+1+1 equals three, you’re getting the same person.”

This weekend’s other new release, Lionsgate’s “Step Up Revolution,” is currently in third place with an estimated $14 mil.

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