The Dark Knight has earned the best opening weekend ever, with $155.3 million (£77.7 million) in its first three days on release in the US and Canada.

The Batman Begins sequel had already broken records for preview screenings and opening night box office and has now beaten the three-day opening record of $151 million (£75.5 million), set by SPIDER-MAN 3 in May 2007.

The Dark Knight now enters an exclusive club of films to have broken the $100 million barrier, with Iron Man having earned $101 million in May and just nine others having achieved the same landmark.

The Christopher Nolan-helmed film, starring Christian Bale as the title character, had previously broken the record for preview takings - $16.9 million (£8.5 million) - which was set by Star Wars Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith in 2005.

The Dark Knight had taken $18.5 million (£9.2 million) from its showings at 00:01 US time on Friday morning, with box office receipts from screenings at 03:00 and 06:00 not counted in The Dark Knight's record-breaking bow.

It then took $66.4 million (£33.1 million) on its opening night, according to distributor Warner Bros, surpassing the previous record of $59.8 million (£29.8 million) set by Spider-Man 3 in 2007.

This one-day figure also smashed the $47 million (£23.5 million) three-day tally averaged by the five previous Batman films, including Batman Begins.

The figures mean the movie is already well on the way to recouping its total cost of $185 million (£92.4 million).

"We're very proud of the film," said Warner Bros head of distribution Dan Fellman.

"It's the magic of the movie business, how one film just stands out above the others," he was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

The late Heath Ledger's performance of The Joker has been tipped to be worthy of a posthumous Oscar, while critics have been unanimous in heaping praise on the film.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC, which compiled the box office figures, said there had been an "unbelievable demand" for the film.

"The Heath Ledger factor is a major part of this," he added.

"Beyond that, the movie is so good, it's worthy of all these accolades."

The Dark Knight opens in the UK on July 24th.

21/07/2008 09:05:44