The Dark Knight

Warner Brothers

Next up: $400 million.

The Dark Knight was primed to enter a stratosphere reached by only seven films in Hollywood history after grossing an estimated $75.6 million this weekend, and surpassing $300 million domestically in record time.

Among the box office also-rans, Will Ferrell got his mojo back, while Scully and Mulder had theirs abducted.

More than anyone, Batman was again the man. Where once a $400 million overall take for the latest Caped Crusader adventure was considered a possibility, now it's considered a lock.

"Certainly, $400 million, boom, that's going to happen," Media by Numbers box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian said today.

"The trajectory it's on has never before been seen. This is absolutely unprecedented."

The Dark Knight's second-weekend gross was, per studio estimates, the biggest ever, despite the usual 50 percent or so drop in business.

Dergarabedian forecasts that The Dark Knight will bash the $400 million mark in about a week from now, or 18 days after its release. In 2004, it took Shrek 2 a comparatively pokey 43 days to reach $400 million, a mark that was—and, as of today, still is—the Hollywood benchmark.

The Dark Knight has demonstrated quite the talent for setting land-speed records. According to the stats at Box Office Mojo, it's the fastest movie to reach $100 million (two days), $200 million (five days) and, as of today, $300 million (10 days).

If the movie really wants to show off, it'll set its sights on a record that, unlike the opening-weekend mark, hasn't been broken—or even seriously challenged—this decade: Titanic's all-time domestic gross of $601 million.

"The reason Titanic hit that number is because it became a cultural phenomenon," Dergarabedian said. "And The Dark Knight has become a kind of cultural phenomenon."

Batman as Jack Dawson? A tall order even for a supersize superhero.

Here's a look at other storylines from the weekend box office, per studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations Co.:

  • Ferrell's Step Brothers took second with a solid $30 million debut. The comedy, which costars John C. Reilly, was a big step up from Ferrell's last opener, this past winter's disappointing Semi-Pro, and was his third-biggest debut behind Talladega Nights ($47 million) and Blades of Glory ($33 million).
  • Almost unbelievably, The X-Files: I Want to Believe failed to meet extremely modest expectations, bowing in fourth, with just $10.2 million. With that kind of start, the movie will have to dig in to make back its extremely modest budget of $35 million.
  • Step Brothers was more vintage X-Files than the X-Files. Its numbers ($30 million debut, $65 million budget) neatly matched those of the 1998's X-Files movie ($30.1 million debut, $66 million budget).
  • One reason X-Files: I Want to Believe finished fourth is that Mamma Mia! (third place, $17.9 million) failed to give much ground. Ticket sales for the Meryl Streep musical were down only 36 percent from last weekend. Overall, the movie has now grossed $62.7 million.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (fifth place, $9.4 million) just might be the quietest, kinda-big movie of the summer. After three weekends, its cumulative take stands at $60.2 million. The figure's not a stunner, but neither was its budget, which was as little as $45 million or as much as $60 million, per various sources.
  • In its fourth weekend, Hancock (sixth place, $8.2 million) finally looked cooked, but managed to push past $200 million overall—star Will Smith's second straight movie to pile up such a gross.
  • Get Smart ($2.3 million; $124.2 million overall) leaves the top 10 after a five-weekend stay, and goes down as Steve Carell's top-grossing live-action comedy.
  • Kung Fu Panda ($1 million; $209 million) leaves the top 10 after a seven-weekend stay, and probably will go down as the 11th biggest animated movie of all time.
  • The new big-screen version of Brideshead Revisited ($332,000 from 33 theaters), the documentary Man on Wire ($46,000 from two theaters) and the high-school-set American Teen ($42,827 from five theaters) led a strong weekend at the art house.

Here's a recap of the top-grossing weekend films based on Friday-Sunday estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

  1. The Dark Knight, $75.6 million
  2. Step Brothers, $30 million
  3. Mamma Mia!, $17.9 million
  4. The X-Files: I Want to Believe, $10.2 million
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth, $9.4 million
  6. Hancock, $8.2 million
  7. WALL-E, $6.3 million
  8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army, $4.9 million
  9. Space Chimps, $4.4 million
  10. Wanted, $2.7 million
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