DUBAI // Cinemas are bracing for one of the busiest weekends of the year when Eid coincides with the launch of six blockbusters.
Chief among these is The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan's latest Batman epic starring Christian Bale as the brooding superhero.
The movie was an instant box-office smash when it was released in the US on July 20, but fans in the emirates had to wait almost a month for its official release today.
The film's local distributor, Shooting Stars, said the decision to delay the opening was taken out of respect for Islamic customs during Ramadan. But a petition calling for the delay to be scrapped attracted thousands of signatures.
Tickets for midnight screenings at Meydan IMAX theatre in Dubai, Reel Cinemas at Dubai Mall and other venues have already been snatched up, cinema bosses say.
"There's a lot of interest in The Dark Knight Rises," said Andy Fordham, the technical and digital director at Grand Cinemas.
"We had a premiere on Tuesday night at one of our cinemas and you could tell how eager people were to see this movie because they were queuing up an hour before the start so they got the best seats.
"So there's a lot of anticipation, and I would find it hard to believe if people were disappointed by that movie. Christopher Nolan is a fantastic filmmaker and I can't recall a time he's failed to deliver."
The film will face stiff competition at the box office from other major releases including Pixar's latest, Brave, the Bollywood romantic action thriller Ek Tha Tiger and the Arabic movie Baba.
Mr Fordham said: "Batman is up against six other big movies – it's like six boxers getting into the ring instead of two. For the next three or four days the biggest film will be Ek Tha Tiger.
"At the Grand Cineplex, which is very, very big for Indian movies, we've already sold 4,000 tickets for Ek Tha Tiger, but we've only sold about 1,000 Dark Knight tickets. Eid is pretty much our busiest time all year."
Mr Fordham said he believed box office takings for the Dark Knight might be depressed because of the delay.
"If a movie is released here day-and-date with the US it's going to stand the best chance of doing the best it can," he said. "If a film is delayed a month I think it will do 20 per cent less."
Reel Cinemas at Dubai Mall plans to screen Dark Knight and other movies 24 hours a day over the Eid holiday.
"With advanced bookings for The Dark Knight Rises already open, we can see interest in the movie picking up pace," said Gordon Kirk, the general manager.
"As one of the most-awaited films of the summer, we expect full houses within the first week of its release."
Anticipation of the release was already building on Twitter yesterday. Saaif Alshamsi tweeted: "Batman tomorrow at night can't wait."
Paul Aggarao, who attended the Grand Cinemas preview, said: "No spoilers about #darkknightrises for my fellow UAE pips, but from what I experienced – book now."
The Dark Knight Rises is the third part of Nolan's Batman trilogy and co-stars Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine.
The US opening was marred by tragedy when gunman James Holmes, 24, opened fire at a midnight premiere in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and injuring 58. He is awaiting trial for murder.