With hours to go until The Dark Knight Rises descends in theaters, the numbers are swinging in the superhero movie's favor.
Advance sales are booming. Seats for midnight Friday IMAX screenings are getting hard to come by. And in New York and Los Angeles, moviegoers looking for a workaround on Craigslist to sellouts are being asked to fork over as much as three figures for a pair of opening-weekend tickets.
If The Avengers was a bad guy on the run, The Dark Knight Rises just might be gaining on it.
What last week could be called the upper echelon of projections are now the projections for Christopher Nolan's latest, and presumed last, Batman adventure, a sequel to 2008 box-office phenomenon The Dark Knight.
Exhibitor Relations is calling for a three-day opening of $184.5 million. BoxOffice.com is going all the way up to $198 million, a take that would put Dark Knight Rises tantilizingly close to The Avengers' mind-blowing, $207.4 million Friday-Sunday start from May.
"It will get close," BoxOffice.com editor Phil Contrino said Thursday. "We're in unchartered territory. The Avengers really broke what can happen at the box office."
It's long been presumed 3-D and 3-D IMAX tickets will be the difference-maker: The Avengers had them; The Dark Knight Rises won't.
Not that conventional IMAX tickets are cheap: In the Los Angeles area, tickets for midnight Friday IMAX screenings of The Dark Knight Rises were going for as much as $18.75 a pop (from theaters, not scalpers, mind you), roughly equal to some movies shown in IMAX 3-D.
At the same time, however, IMAX theaters are not everywhere, like the digital 3-D screen at the local multiplex. Of The Dark Knight Rises' 4,404 opening-weekend theaters, only a small percentage, about 330 total, will be conventional IMAX.
The idea's already been advanced that The Dark Knight Rises will go down as the biggest-opening 2-D movie ever, possibly by having sold more tickets than The Avengers, regardless of whether it beats the pricier movie's debut record.
Said Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock: "It'll be really interesting to see how this breaks down."