Midnight 'Dark Knight' shows set record

7/18/2008 LOS ANGELES That bested the 2005 performance of "Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith," which took in $16.9 million during its midnight debut in 2,915 venues.

"The Dark Knight" figure did not include any of its 3 a.m. or 6 a.m. showings.

"We're very proud of the film," said Dan Fellman, Warner's head of distribution. "It's the magic of the movie business, how one film just stands out above the others."

Critics have praised of the movie that co-stars the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Some have said the role could win Ledger a posthumous Oscar.

Advanced ticket sales were booming.

The early numbers mean "The Dark Knight" will likely join the ranks of 10 other films that debuted on non-holiday weekends and cleared more than $100 million from Friday to Sunday, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC.

"There is an unbelievable demand for this movie," he said. "The Heath Ledger factor is a major part of this. Beyond that, the movie is so good, it's worthy of all these accolades."

The movie directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman cost $185 million to make, excluding money spent marketing, Fellman said.

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