"The Dark Knight" took in $26 million to finish as the No. 1 movie for the fourth straight weekend, beating the comedy "Pineapple Express," which opened in second place with $22.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The weekend haul lifted the Warner Bros. Batman sequel to No. 3 on the all-time domestic box-office charts with $441.5 million, behind only "Titanic" ($600.8 million) and the original "Star Wars" ($461 million).
The last movie to remain No. 1 for four consecutive weekends was "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in late 2003 and 2004, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers. That movie did it during a much slower time of year, with nowhere near the competition "The Dark Knight" has faced during Hollywood's busy summer season.
"It's almost unheard of. Summer doesn't usually afford films that much of a wide-open playing field," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.
"The Dark Knight" should surpass "Star Wars" to become No. 2 on the revenue chart by this coming weekend.
However, the numbers reflect today's higher admission prices, and "The Dark Knight" will not approach "Star Wars" or "Titanic" in terms of actual number of tickets sold. Taking inflation into account, "The Dark Knight" would need to pull in about $900 million to match the number of tickets sold for "Titanic" and about $1.2 billion to equal "Star Wars."
Even so, "The Dark Knight" has far outdone even its studio's expectations. Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., said he would have been happy if the movie simply exceeded the $205 million domestic total of its predecessor, "Batman Begins."
It should top out at $510 million to $520 million, Fellman said.
"It has taken on a life of its own, and in doing so got so much positive press and word of mouth that older audiences who normally don't rush out to see movies or maybe only see two, three movies a year are coming out in large numbers," Fellman said. "It's a question of `We've been reading about this for three, four weeks now. Let's go see what it's all about."'
Since opening Wednesday, Sony's "Pineapple Express" had taken in $40.5 million. The action comedy stars Seth Rogen as a pot smoker on the run from crooks after he witnesses a murder, with his lovably clueless dealer (James Franco) in tow.
While "Pineapple Express" was unable to dislodge "The Dark Knight," Sony executives were happy with a strong No. 2 finish given the juggernaut the Batman flick has become.
"Quite frankly, it's nice to know that everything else is still kind of doing some business," said Rory Bruer, Sony head of distribution. "We're so very satisfied to be at $40 million-plus after five days. You couldn't ask for more."
The weekend's other wide release, the Warner Bros. sequel "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," opened at No. 4 with $10.8 million, raising its total to $19.7 million since debuting Wednesday.
The movie reunites gal pals America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel and Blake Lively as the foursome whose friendship is reinforced by the worn pair of pants they share.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Dark Knight," $26 million.
2. "Pineapple Express," $22.4 million.
3. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," $16.1 million.
4. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," $10.8 million.
5. "Step Brothers," $8.9 million.
6. "Mamma Mia!", $8.1 million.
7. "Journey to the Center of the Earth," $4.9 million.
8. "Hancock," $3.3 million.
9. "Swing Vote," $3.1 million.
10. "WALL-E," $3 million.