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"Dark Knight" Brightens Hollywood With Best Weekend Ever

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A Warner Bros. executive says the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" took in $155.34 million to top "Spider-Man 3" for best opening weekend ever at the box office.

"The Dark Knight" had set a single-day box office record by taking in $66.4 million on opening day, according to a Warner Bros. executive.

The movie's Friday haul surpassed the previous record of $59.8 million set last year by "Spider-Man 3." "The Dark Knight" also might break the opening weekend record of $151.1 million posted by "Spider-Man 3."

Warner Bros.head of distribution Dan Fellman said the death of co-star Heath Ledger and the buzz about his frenzied performance as the Batman villain Joker was a big part of the movie's allure.

"The Dark Knight" also lit up cash registers during its midnight debut, stealing away with a record $18.5 million from 3,040 theaters, Warner Bros. said.

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.

All indications are that "The Dark Knight" will keep landing blows: Advance ticket sales were booming.

"There is an unbelievable demand for this movie," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC. "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, said Dan Fellman, Warner's head of distribution.

Critics have heaped praise on the movie — especially the late Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker, which has already generated whispers of a posthumous Oscar nomination.

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