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'Dark Knight Rises' fades after tragedy

8:59 PM, Jul 29, 2012   |    comments
Christian Bale as Batman in scene from movie "The Dark Knight Rises", Warner Bros Pictures
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The Dark Knight Rises is sinking.

Despite an easy No. 1 over weak competition this weekend at theaters, the third chapter of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is fading faster than analysts expected, still overshadowed by last week's slaying of 12 people at a theater in Aurora, Colo.

The film did $64.1 million, bringing the final chapter's 10-day haul to $289.1million, according to studio estimates from Hollywood.com.

While the haul is sizable, analysts say the movie is unlikely to come near the grosses of 2008's The Dark Knight, which did $533 million.

With the "lingering effects of the Aurora shooting, suddenly even $400 million is rapidly becoming a pipe dream," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com

For a moment, analysts expected Rises to do just that: survive the tragedy. Although last week's massacre at the Thursday midnight premiere marred the movie's release, Rises still scored a weekend debut of $160.9 million, putting it third in the record books thanks primarily to online sales.

And while Rises is earning stellar reviews, this weekend's haul marks a 60% decline from its opening (though this weekend did not feature midnight screenings).

Analysts wondered whether the shootings cast a pall over overall moviegoing, while some also noted the Olympics' opening ceremony may have winnowed audiences.

"What has happened here is the combination of tragedy and the Olympics have created the perfect storm to keep viewers away from theaters," Briody says. "While we were hopeful that last weekend was an aberration and audiences would return after the headlines subsided, that has not been the case at all."

Subpar summer films didn't help. Ice Age: Continental Drift, a cartoon in its third weekend, was second with $13.3 million.

The comedy The Watch was a disappointing third with $13 million, about $7 million below expectations.

Neither fans nor critics seemed much interested in watching The Watch. Just 14% of critics recommended the movie, while a weak 70% of moviegoers said they enjoyed it, according to survey site Rottentomatoes.com.

That film, too, had to dodge real-life violence. Distributor Twentieth Century Fox dropped the word "Neighborhood" from the movie's title after the February shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Timing, Briody says, was never on The Watch's side.

"Not that this contains many laughs," he says, "but it's not too great a time to be a comedy at this moment."

The dance movie Step Up: Revolution, the only other major newcomer of the group, took fourth place with $11.8 million, the lower end of expectations. While just 35% of critics gave the extended dance video a thumbs-up, a solid 86% of audiences liked it, the survey site said.

The comedy Ted rounded out the top 5 with $7.4 million, lifting its overall gross to $193.6 million, the surprise comedy hit of the year so far. Final figures are due Monday.

The movie business has been down since the shootings. This weekend's ticket sales were 25% lower than the same weekend last year. While 2012's brisk ticket sales have slowed, revenues remain up 6% over the same period last year, while attendance is up 8%, according to Hollywood.com.

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Casual Sex: James Holmes looking for sex online before shooting

Suspect: James Holmes: Dark Knight shooting suspect identified, picture

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Controversy: New Batman movie created controversy, threats before release

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By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY

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