As the Watchmen entered the fray, the biggest superhero exited. Distributor Warner Bros. has hung up the cowl and cape for The Dark Knight after 231 days of service. With a $533.3 million final tally as of Mar. 5, the picture is the top superhero or comic book movie of all time.
The Dark Knight stands as the most attended movie since Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 1999, ranking 27th on the All Time Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation chart. Unadjusted, writer-director Christopher Nolan' Batman sequel is second only to Titanic, and its phenomenal 33-week run includes $49.9 million from IMAX venues, a record for a two-dimensional re-mastered IMAX release. Worldwide, which is domestic and foreign grosses combined, it recently crossed the billion dollar mark, the fourth movie in history to hit that milestone.
One of the most impressive and relatively unheralded feats of The Dark Knight was how it performed by one of the key measures of a sequel's success: comparison to its predecessor. In 2005, Batman Begins reached blockbuster status, grossing $205.3 million. That was a great number on its own, especially given how the picture had to overcome the stench of the prior Batman movie, Batman and Robin. Batman Begins was well liked by moviegoers and the picture promised The Joker as the next villain (before Heath Ledger was even cast), getting the buzz rolling for the sequel. The Dark Knight was expected to exceed Batman Begins because of that foundation, but it soared at an unprecedented level for a sequel to a blockbuster, earning more than two and half times the gross of its predecessor.
In its final week, The Dark Knight played at 54 sites, making $131,364 to rank in the Top 50. Business was up nearly five percent from the previous week and the picture continues this weekend at a handful of theaters, but Warner Bros. has pulled the plug. That's not unusual. Most studios cease box office tracking when their movies drop to a certain level, sometimes even when those movies are still showing at a significant number of theaters or ranking relatively highly on the charts. Dark Knight was the last hold-out to close among movies released in July.
In addition to the end of The Dark Knight, Universal Pictures retired The Tale of Despereaux and The Unborn, despite the fact that each movie is still playing at over 100 theaters. The Tale of Despereaux was a modest mouse, grossing $50.9 million in 11 weeks. The Unborn, written and directed by Dark Knight story co-writer David S. Goyer, died out at $42.7 million in eight weeks, which was within the average range of similar horror movies.