Box Office: Will auds rise for ‘Dark Knight’?

Poll finds 20-25% of moviegoers still hesitant after shooting

The deflating effect of the Aurora, Colo., shootings on last week’s opening for Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises” has box office observers wondering just how long it will impact the shaken exhibition industry.

Will auds come back this weekend?

Between 20% and 25% of polled audiences are still hesitant to go to the movies right now, according to market research firm NRG. That could affect not only Batman but also the weekend’s newcomers, Fox’s “The Watch” and Lionsgate-Summit’s “Step Up: Revolution,” both of which are expected to gross in the low- to-mid teens.

With some people avoiding the plexes last weekend, “Dark Knight Rises” hit $161 million domestic — the best 2D opening of all time but just shy of expectations that ranged into the low $170 millions.”The Dark Knight Rises” has been performing solidly during midweeks, with a domestic cume of $211.8 million through Wednesday. But midweek playability for “TDKR” is a touch sluggish vs. the perf of its 2008 predecessor. Earlier pic fell 44% during its first Monday vs. the 52% drop for “Dark Knight Rises” that same day. Wednesday earnings for “TDKR” were down 22% from the previous day, while its predecessor fell 12%.

More illuminating than midweek comparisons, perhaps, will be the pic’s weekend-to-weekend performance: The soph-sesh drop for “TDKR” is expected to be in the 65%-70% range, yielding a weekend gross at around $53 million. (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” fell 72% during its second frame.) If “Dark Knight Rises” drops like its predecessor (down 53%), it would land at about $75 million.

Regardless of this weekend’s gross, many bizzers feel “TDKR” can make up for any lost ground in subsequent frames.

Internationally, “Rises” auds has been unfazed. The finale collected $88 million last weekend, nearly doubling the overseas opening for “Dark Knight” ($41.5 million) from fewer territories (17 vs. 21 for “Dark Knight”). Warners next launches “TDKR” into another 40 territories, including France, where the film debuted with $2 million on Wednesday. Pic is also bowing this weekend in Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Russia. International cume is $125.3 million.

The domestic B.O., meanwhile, looks flat for fare beyond Batman. “The Watch” — another film forced to deal with a real-life shooting — is looking at the mid-teens, as is “Step Up: Revolution” — the fourth installment in the dance franchise.

Fox’s R-rated “Watch” was originally titled “Neighborhood Watch” but was retitled in response to the shooting of Florida teen Treyvon Martin. Fox pulled a teaser trailer and poster, the latter of which featured the silhouette of an alien on a neighborhood watch sign riddled with bullets.

“The Watch” centers on a neighborhood watch group defending against an alien invasion. Pic, which stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade, shows strongest interest among adults.

Lionsgate-Summit’s “Step Up,” meanwhile, is likely to play best with younger femmes like the franchise’s past installments. The film, with 90% of its opening locations in 3D, also has drawn strong interest from Latino and African-American auds.

At the specialty box office, Fox Searchlight launched on Wednesday the comedy “Ruby Sparks,” from “Little Miss Sunshine” helmers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Pic started out with $19,417 from 13 locations, averaging nearly $1,500 per screen.

Searchlight also expands “Beasts of the Southern Wild” to 208 locations, up from 129, while the top-grossing 2012 foreign-language film at the domestic B.O., the Weinstein Co.’s “The Intouchables,” adds more than 100 locations today. “Beasts” so far has totaled more than $3 million domestically; “Intouchables,” $7.2 million.

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