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Will Batman Dethrone the Avengers?

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Now that The Avengers has set a new record for the biggest domestic opening weekend ever, Marvel Studios and their owner The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) are sitting on a pile of money worthy of Disney's own Scrooge McDuck. Between its $200 million opening weekend in the U.S. and its worldwide gross of $775 million so far, the film has been successful beyond the wildest expectations and the movie may be on its way to the quickest $1 billion gross in movie history.

In the short term, it seems very unlikely that any of the other major film releases this month - Warner Bros.' (NYSE: TWX) horror-comedy Dark Shadows (out last Friday), Paramount's (NASDAQ: VIA) comedy The Dictator (May 16), Universal's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) science-fiction action film Battleship (May 18), and Amblin Entertainment/Columbia's (NYSE: SNE) sci-fi comedy sequel Men in Black 3 (May 25) - will achieve anywhere near the success of Marvel's superhero opus.

Once June and July roll around, there will be much more competition. Big films due out in the next two months include Universal's fantasy action film Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1), Dimension Films' horror-comedy sequel Piranha 3DD (June 1), 20th Century Fox's (NYSE: NEWSA) sci-fi epic Prometheus (June 8), Warner Bros./New Line Cinema's musical Rock of Ages (June 15), Disney/Pixar's fantasy adventure Brave (June 22), 20th Century Fox's action horror Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22), Paramount/MGM's sci-fi action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29), Columbia's superhero reboot The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), and Universal's comedy Ted (July 13).

But right now, the movie with the best chance of equaling or beating the success of The Avengers is Warner Bros.' own superhero epic The Dark Knight Rises, the finale of director Christopher Nolan's Batman saga, due out July 20. After its predecessor, 2008's The Dark Knight, grossed over $1 billion and became the most successful superhero film to date, expectations for this third film are very high.

However, The Dark Knight Rises has a big factor against it compared to The Avengers. Judging from the advertisements and trailers, The Dark Knight Rises is a very bleak, downbeat film, even more so than The Dark Knight. This will likely keep a large number of children and parents away from the movie. By contrast, The Avengers is much more upbeat, colorful, and crowd-pleasing, more in line with what is expected of a summer blockbuster.

While The Dark Knight Rises will probably be very successful, it may not be able to capture the same kind of lightning-in-a-bottle that made its predecessor such a huge hit.

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