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The Dark Knight rewrites box-office record books
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Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" rewrote the box-office record books last weekend as audiences flocked to see late actor Heath Ledger in his last completed film role, figures showed Monday.

The film raked in 158.4 million dollars, crushing the previous North American box-office opening record of 151.1 million held by "Spider-Man 3", industry tracker Exhibitor Relations said.

Prior to "The Dark Knight," "Spider-Man 3" had led the all-time opening weekend figures from 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" (135.6 million) and 2007's "Shrek the Third" (121.6 million).

The performance of "The Dark Knight" helped the overall box-office to a record three-day take of 260 million dollars.

Buzz has been building for weeks about director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to 2005's "Batman Begins," with several reviewers hailing Ledger's performance as worthy of a posthumous Oscar nod.

Ledger, who died of an accidental drug overdose in New York in January, plays the cackling villain the Joker in "The Dark Knight."

Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock said he believed the box-office success of "The Dark Knight" was largely due to the intense interest surrounding Ledger's mesmerizing performance.

"I think you have to credit this to a large extent to Heath Ledger," Bock told AFP. "Since he died there has been a tremendous amount of anticipation about Heath's performance.

Analysts said "The Dark Knight" would likely exceed the total box office take of "Batman Begins" -- 205.3 million dollars -- by the end of this week.

With Batman dominant, the remainder of the box-office spoils were carved up by Abba musical "Mamma Mia!", which opened with 27.7 million to take second place, and Will Smith's flawed superhero "Hancock" (14 million) in third.

In fourth place was adventure "Journey to the Center of the Earth" with 12.3 million while last week's top dog "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" was fifth with 10.1 million.

Pixar animation's "Wall-E" was sixth with 10 million while another animated feature "Space Chimps" was next with 7.1 million.

The Angelina Jolie action movie "Wanted" was eighth with five million dollars, followed by the spoof spy comedy "Get Smart" (4.1 million) and "Kung Fu Panda" (1.9 million).

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