WINNER OF THE WEEK: The Dark Knight Rises. The Batman sequel managed a record-breaking opening, even with the apparent chilling effect of Friday's midnight-screening massacre in Colorado. The movie earned an estimated $160 to $162 million, according to early studio estimates, enough to beat the $158 million debut of 2008's The Dark Knight and to set a record as the biggest opening weekend ever for a 2D film. Sure, before the horror in Aurora, the movie had been expected to challenge the $207 million debut of May's The Avengers, or at least pull in $180 million. Still, not even a weekend dominated by bleak news from Aurora could dissuade Bat-fans. No doubt there was something cathartic in watching the epic's brutal-yet-safely-imaginary on-screen violence. In fact, there was probably something cathartic about merely buying a ticket and proving that no mass murderer was going to scare fans away from seeing the culmination to the trilogy for which they'd waited four years.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Family-friendly films. Last week's champ, Ice Age: Continental Drift, took a steep plunge to second place and an estimated $21 million, off about 55 percent from last week's opening take. Suffering similar drops were The Amazing Spider-Man (Number Three with an estimated $11 million, down 68 percent from a week ago) and Brave (Number Five with an estimated $6 million, down 46 percent). Families may have felt skittish about security at cinemas after Friday's shooting. Then again, the far-from-family-friendly Ted also fell 55 percent this weekend (coming in fourth with an estimated $10 million), so maybe it's just that most moviegoers just wanted to see Batman.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN: Out of sensitivity to the Aurora victims, most of the studios declared that they wouldn't release box office estimates on Sunday . . . then went ahead and leaked them anyway to a handful of media outlets. When bragging rights and tens of millions of dollars are at stake, sensitivity goes only so far. Still, Dark Knight distributor Warner Bros. had the good taste to cancel several upcoming overseas premieres for the movie, and it scrapped trailers for Gangster Squad that showed gunmen shooting up a crowded movie theater. Meanwhile, fans at Facebook and Twitter have started a drive, under the hashtag #BaleOutAurora, to urge Christian Bale to visit the wounded. After this weekend's Bat-haul, he can certainly afford the plane fare.