DUBAI // It is the one thing hotter than the blistering July temperatures: a ticket for the opening night of The Dark Knight at the only Imax cinema in town when the new Batman film opens tomorrow. In the US, where advance tickets were changing hands for US$100 (Dh367), the film has already smashed box office records. Now it is the turn of the UAE, with cinemas already predicting the busiest weekend of the year.
Six scenes of the film, which stars Christian Bale as the caped crusader and the late Australian actor Heath Ledger as his twisted nemesis the Joker, were filmed using the latest Imax technology. It will be shown on the six-storey screen at the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai, currently the only Imax cinema in the country. "Ticket sales are going quickly up to now," said a spokesman for the cinema. "There is a lot of interest in the film from people out there.
"It's going to be very, very big. Huge. Maybe the biggest film we have had here. It's the biggest film of the year; you can tell because people are asking a lot about it. "There are still tickets left but it is getting very busy. Anybody who wants to come should come now before they run out." The Imax screenings of The Dark Knight will begin at 1am on Thursday. Matthew Melgard, 18, a student from Jumeirah, said he was excited "on a scale of one to 10, about 11".
"A few of my friends in the US have already seen it, and they said the Joker really is the main character, a very complex and intriguing character. The film is much more about the Joker than anyone else, including Batman. They said he was menacing, twisted and almost psychopathic. "I'm going to watch it at the first possible opportunity. The previous Batman films were very much for kids, but Batman Begins was a very dark, realistic film that brought a whole new level of realism to the Batman films.
"I'm really looking forward to it." The first screenings will be at 11.58pm tomorrow at the Cinestar cinema at Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, and at midnight on Thursday at the Cinestar cinema at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. A spokesman for Cinestar said: "It is the only film people want to see." The film is the sequel to the 2005 hit Batman Begins, the fifth in the Batman franchise, which reinvented the Batman brand.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, who also made Memento and Insomnia, it has been widely praised as one of the most intelligent action films in years. Since its release in America last Thursday, The Dark Knight has broken several box office records, and is expected to go on to break several more. It made an estimated US$155.3 million (Dh569 million) in only three days, surpassing the previous three-day record set last year by another superhero sequel, Spiderman 3, which earned US$4.2m (Dh15.5m) less.
It also earned more than US$6.2m (Dh22.7m) in Imax cinemas alone on the weekend, making it the highest opening weekend for an Imax film. In total, the film shattered eight box office records, from opening night to biggest single day and July openings. Worldwide, the film has already recovered its US$180m (Dh661m) production budget after four days. The Los Angeles Times called the film "powerful, propulsive filmmaking" and it has generally earned praised rarely given to action films. Critics are predicting that Ledger, who died of an accidental drug overdose in January, will be awarded a posthumous Oscar next February.
Abhijit Srivastava, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student from Dubai, flew home to India just to watch the film ahead of its UAE release. "I saw the three trailers and it doesn't take a serious film critic to say that Heath Ledger makes a terrific Joker. "Heath Ledger really became one with the character. The previous Batman set the benchmark for believable superhero movies, hence the excitement for this one."
Agnes Sharifi, originally from France, bought two tickets for her sons, aged 14 and 16, for the first screenings at Abu Dhabi Mall on Thursday. "I don't understand why people like superhero films, but that is a personal opinion. I know my sons had to have tickets for Thursday - they would make problems for me if not. "They are old enough to go, but I am worried because it does look extremely violent."
The Imax cinema in Dubai, at the time of its construction the fourth in the Middle East, opened in July 2005 with the screening of Batman Begins. The 13.5-metre tall and 21-metre wide screen is the biggest in the country and is complemented by the largest sound system in the Emirates. By the end of 2010, there will be a dozen Imax cinemas throughout the Middle East - double the current amount, according to the Imax website.
A second Imax cinema in Dubai will open at the Nad al Sheba camel race track before the end of 2009. Anyone looking to escape Batmania for the weekend may look at a short holiday away: flights to the Turkish city of Batman from Abu Dhabi, flying tomorrow, are available from Dh2,821 ($769). @Email:email@example.com