Expectations for the opening release of ‘The Dark Knight’ this weekend are through the roof. Does anyone smell biggest opening weekend ever?

Some estimates are saying this could be the largest box-office opening ever, and for a few innovative reasons.

Firstly, the movie opens tonight at midnight and 700 of the 3,000 showing theateres have already sold out. With Fandango and other online movie ticketing websites, tracking the uptick on Dark Knight purchases, the new film is set to break the #2  and possibly #1 records currently held by Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and Spider-Man 3. ($136 and $151 million)

According to Julia Bornstein in a recent CNBC interview, 38% of Fandango users claim they are taking off work on Friday so they can see the Thursday midnight showings. Now that’s impressive.

But what’s really uncanny are the number of theatres showing the film throughout the night and well into the early morning hours. The latest Batman movie could potentially be seen by more clamoring late night fans than those seeing it during the day over the weekend.

Erik Davis at Cinematical tries to explain the absolute frenzy for Dark Knight IMAX tickets in New York City:

Yes, you can currently find an assortment of Dark Knight IMAX tickets up for sale on eBay. Seeing this film in NYC is so popular that one pair of tickets for a Sunday morning 10am show is about to sell for $89! After 20 bids! That’s insane. Someone is going to pay almost ninety dollars to see a movie on a Sunday morning. But not all the tickets are that expensive: You can get three tickets for a showing at the Mall of Georgia for only $30, or you can spend a whopping $200 for two tickets to the one IMAX theater in Kentucky. Or — and this is the kicker — what about $350 for the opening 3am show in West Nyack, New Jersey.

Without a doubt, Heath Ledger’s untimely death has inadvertently caused more interest and publicity for the film, leading many ill-informed bastards to ponder this. But the latest Batman is really just a big-time money-making/creating machine. Check this out: The Governor of Illinois recently announced that the filming of the Dark Knight in Chicago created 4,500 jobs for the city and pumped over $40 million into the state’s economy.

However, an article by Julia Dennis from this month’s Portfolio magazine also does a good job of illustrating how in the past the Batman movies have lost money over time.

So can the newest Batman outpeform the trend? I’m guessing, yeah. (Wow, George Clooney was such a lame Batman)

Portfolio: Holy Bottom Line, Batman!, July, 2008