A popular debate over the past two months has been whether or not The Dark Knight Rises can top the record-setting $207.4 million Avengers debut. It's an uphill battle, for sure: The Avengers had a boost from 3D ticket pricing, and opened at a time when there wasn't really any competition. Additionally, The Dark Knight Rises has an insanely long runtime (164 minutes) which will prevent it from getting in as many showings per screen as The Avengers.
That being said, there are a handful of things working in favor of The Dark Knight Rises. First, the movie is guaranteed to have a much bigger midnight opening than The Avengers. Four years ago, before midnight movies had really taken off, The Dark Knight set a then-record with $18.5 million. The opportunity to be one of the first to see the conclusion has sparked ridiculous midnight demand among fanboys, and theaters are adding more and more showtimes to accommodate this demand. At 3,700 midnight locations, The Dark Knight Rises should earn at least $30 million, which gives it an early leg up on The Avengers ($18.7 million).
Also thanks to the proliferation of digital projection, theaters should be well-suited to handle the surge of opening weekend demand for The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, Ice Age: Continental Drift and to a lesser extent The Amazing Spider-Man will hold on to most of their screens, but other movies are going to get pushed aside to make room for Batman (at the Arclight theaters in Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, for example, the movie appears to be playing on at least six out of 14 screens this weekend). Tracking indicates that there's more pre-release interest in The Dark Knight Rises than in The Avengers, and if that gap is significant enough, then The Dark Knight Rises can overcome its ticket price disadvantage and claim the all-time opening weekend record.
Thanks to an attention-grabbing campaign, the exorbitant pent-up demand, and the insane popularity of its predecessor, it's likely that the movie winds up on the higher end of this range, and barely beats The Avengers's $207.4 million record.
Bar for Success The Dark Knight's opening weekend theater average adjusts to approximately $40,000 in 2012 dollars. The Dark Knight Rises needs to match that figure, which translates to $175 million across its 4,404 locations.