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Flying high

Is The Dark Knight the best movie ever?
By PETER KEOUGH  |  July 23, 2008

Every summer, it seems like another superhero movie has broken some box-office record or other and made movie history. This past year, Spider-Man 3 made $151,116,516 in its opening weekend, beating out the previous record holder, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which pulled in $135,634,554 in 2006. This year is no exception: as a recent press release from Warner Bros. proclaims, The Dark Knight has surpassed them all, taking in a total of $158,411,483.

Given that ticket prices are forever on the rise, that doesn’t necessarily mean Knight attracted the most viewers of all time. But ticket for ticket, Batman still beat Clark Gable — badly — this weekend. The 1939 classic Gone with the Wind made $945,000 when it first opened, back when ticket prices averaged $0.23. That means only 4.1 million fans chipped in two bits to see it that first weekend, while some 23 million paid an average of $6.88 to catch Knight the first few nights after it was released.

The more cynical might suggest that the box office doesn’t have much to do with cinema quality. In which case the latest returns from the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 are of interest. In it, Knight has skyrocketed among online voters to be rated the best film of all time, receiving more than 91,000 votes in less than a week, with an average rating of 9.4. That puts it ahead of The Godfather in second place at 9.1 and leaves Wind in the dust in 172nd place with an 8.1 rating. Then consider that number three on the list is The Shawshank Redemption (virtually tied with The Godfather with a 9.1), which handily beats out Citizen Kane way back in the 28th spot with an 8.6. Maybe the cynics are right after all.

Related: King maker, The medium is the movie, Pan-American, More more >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Movies, Charles Foster Kane,  More more >
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Re: Flying high
I think Gable still probably comes out ahead in the box office race. The population numbers are relative, not only because 2008's national population is over twice 1939's. Your accounting doesn't account for the release patterns of 1939.
GetW's first weekend wasn't in 4,000 theatres playing to a possible audience of 300 million. It premiered in Atlanta (potential audience: 800,000, ignoring segregation, which likely shrinked the potential audience considerably) at prices much higher than $.23. If it made nearly a million dollars under those conditions, it must've played to something like a quarter of the population. To compete, Batman would've had to play to something like 75 million people.If you meant it's first weekend in "wide release" that still means only the biggest theatre or two in the biggest US cities. I think I read it was on something like 150 screens in Feb 40 after road-showing from its December premiere. In that case, the larger percentage of a smaller available audience still applies and GwtW almost certainly comes out ahead.Of course, Dark Knight is still clearly the best movie ever under other measures. 
By hip_priest on 07/26/2008 at 3:16:55
Re: Flying high
 Good Grief!  I am disappointed that people are voting this as the best movie ever.  There are scores of films to choose from.  Clearly, people who think this have limited knowledge of the classics, and/or the shortest attention span humanly possible.  Isn't the test of a great movie whether or not it is still great long after it's release?  Isn't that what makes films like Gone With the Wind, Citizan Kane, Scareface, and Vertigo (one of my own personal favorites) so great:  the fact that people still watch them and think they are great after 20 plus years?  So if this vote were 20 years down the road it might be more valid.  Next year the masses will probably think that some other movie is the greatest, and Dark Knight will be forgotten.  
By Margo on 07/26/2008 at 9:22:01

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