Unprecedented ticket demand. Serious Oscar talk. The adulation of fanboys everywhere.
A week before its opening, Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight is shaping up as the movie event of the year, if not the millennium (keeping in mind the millennium is only eight years old).
Already, theaters have scheduled midnight Thursday screenings - to begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday, so as not to violate film's contracted July 18 opening. There's talk of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. screenings Friday, to meet the advance-sales demand. The Senator's Tom Kiefaber says he'd schedule a 9:30 p.m. Thursday screening, if the studio would let him.
"We're seeing a record number of late-night showtimes selling out in advance," Rick Butler, chief operating officer for the online ticket service Fandango, said in a news release, "while theaters are adding new performances every day."
Locally, midnight Thursday screenings have been scheduled at a handful of area theaters, including the Senator; Muvico Egyptian 24 at Arundel Mills; AMC Owings Mills 17, White Marsh 16 and Columbia 14; UA Movies at Marley Station 8 and Snowden Square Stadium 14 in Columbia; the Diamond Cinemas Westview in Catonsville; and the R/C Hollywood Cinema 4 in Arbutus.
So far, the earliest Friday morning screenings in the area are set for 9 a.m. at a handful of theaters. But most schedules for Friday won't be finalized until Monday or Tuesday, meaning that a handful of 6 a.m. or even 3 a.m. screenings are possible.
According to a random survey of more than 3,000 Dark Knight fans who signed on to Fandango last week, 37 percent plan to see the film Thursday night, and 38 percent plan on taking at least part of Friday off to recover from their late-night moviegoing.
Nationwide, more than 1,500 theaters have scheduled Thursday midnight screenings.
Although few people, including critics, have seen the film yet - the screening for Baltimore-area critics is set for Wednesday, while Washington-area critics will get to see it Monday - buzz about the movie is resoundingly positive. Variety's Justin Chang called The Dark Knight "seriously brainy pop entertainment that satisfies every expectation raised by its hit predecessor and then some," while The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt labels the film "pure adrenaline" and predicts, "Those bags of money in the movie's opening bank heist are nothing compared with the worldwide boxoffice haul Dark Knight will take from theaters."
Unfailingly singled out for added praise is the late Heath Ledger's turn as The Joker. Entertainment Weekly has called his work the year's first Oscar-worthy performance.