Theaters Prepare for ‘Dark Knight’ Release

The Hollywood blockbuster hero–from a whip-wielding archeologist to a Blahnik-sporting sex columnist–is alive and well. And come next Friday, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is likely to face a dethroning from the top of 2008’s box office (over $312 million to date) by late Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker.

The Dark Knight is perceived by much of the moviegoing population as the most anticipated film of the already blockbuster-friendly summer, thanks to not only the critical acclaim of director Christopher Nolan’s first shot at the Batman Franchise in 2005, but by a posthumous performance that has generated Oscar talk ever since Ledger’s death early this year.

To add to the fanfares, critics at publications like Time and The Hollywood Reporter have already praised the unusually adult superhero film. Where a serious, reflective take on a character resulted in widespread mockery for Ang Lee (see 2003’s The Hulk), Nolan’s signature grimness has encountered nothing but fan admiration.

Multiplexes are now taking extra steps to gear up for a record-breaking opening, The New York Times reports. In addition to offering midnight and 3 a.m screenings, theaters around the country have added a 6 a.m Friday morning screening onto their lineups.

Expect a productive summer Friday at the office.