Trilogy capper should open to north of $170 mil in U.S.

After a tragic start to its domestic run, Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises” is still poised for boffo biz at the domestic box office, with early estimates putting the Batman sequel at $75 million to 80 million for Friday alone.

After grossing a 2D-record $30.6 million in midnight runs Thursday, “TDKR” is currently on track to earn north of $170 million, well short of “The Avengers'” all-time record $204 mil debut — but Marvel/Disney had the advantage of premium 3D prices, so these estimates suggest a neck-and-neck haul in terms of ticket sales.

Still, it’s difficult to predict where the “The Dark Knight” will land come Monday; estimates for Friday returns fell roughly 5% from midday to early evening.

“I expect a lot of variability throughout the weekend,” one rival studio exec says.

Warner Bros. announced on Friday that it would not report box office figures for “The Dark Knight Rises” over the weekend out of respect for the victims of the shooting in Aurora, Colo., which left 12 people dead after a lone gunman opened fire on the packed theater at a Thursday midnight screening. It was the second Batpic in a row to open under tragic circumstances; Heath Ledger’s death in January 2008 came before his Oscar-winning turn as The Joker in that year’s July release, “The Dark Knight.”

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