The ENQUIRER has learned that based on their initial investigation, police believe shooter James Holmes planned to slaughter the blockbuster movie’s stars  in a bloody cataclysm of epic violence.

“It was a sick fantasy of this deranged monster,” one investigator told The ENQUIRER.

“He wanted to kill Bale who plays Batman, along with the rest of the cast and God knows how many in­nocent people. In his sick fantasy he wanted to strike a blow on Gotham City, which represents New York City in the movie.”

Another source close to the investigation confirmed: “Po­lice believe the New York City premiere of the new Batman film, ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ on July 16 was the suspect’s initial target.

“In a horrific and chilling sce­nario, Holmes confused reality with fantasy and in­tended to come to New York City – to him, the film’s Gotham City – to shoot up the premiere. He intend­ed to kill “Batman” actor Christian Bale, along with his co-stars Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman.

Holmes – a 24-year-old former graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver – kicked off his sinister plan months ago when he began amass­ing a huge arsenal of high-powered, military-grade weaponry in his apartment in Aurora, sources say.

Cops say Holmes bought an AR-15 semiauto-matic assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock handguns, reportedly from two local sporting goods stores. He also purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet.

The ammo included 300 rounds for his shot­gun and multiple spare magazines for the as­sault rifle, including a 100-round drum maga­zine. He also bought a bulletproof vest, other tactical gear and a fold­ing knife.

In March, Holmes took his car, a white Hyun­dai Tiburon with 63,000 miles, to the Grease Mon­key oil service shop near his apartment. He paid $52 for a full lube, oil and filter job in what police believe was preparation for a trip to New York.

“The car he brought in was the same one that police impounded outside the movie theater af­ter the shooting,” Grease Monkey manager Kevin Gomez told The ENQUIRER.

“He came in wearing a trench coat. I thought that was a bit strange because it was a warm spring day. He didn’t say much. When we serviced the car, the inside was a mess. It looked like he was living out of it. Papers and wrappers were every­where.”

Sources say Holmes’ grand scheme to wreak havoc at “The Dark Knight Rises” New York premiere unraveled after a gun club in Colorado, where he hoped to hone his marksman­ship skills, rejected his application to join their shooting club.

Holmes e-mailed an applica­tion to the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25, and club owner Glenn Rotkovich said he called to invite Holmes to a mandatory orientation for membership.

But Rotkovich says he was put off by the “bizarre – guttural, freakish at best” message on Holmes’ answering machine, and decided to reject him. Rotkovich warned staff members to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not admit him to the club if he showed up.

“Police believe that the gun club rejection sent Holmes off into a tidal wave of paranoia that authorities had been alerted to his arsenal,” a source told The ENQUIRER.

“Suddenly, he feared that cops would be storming his apartment, or watching for him to start his trip to New York and arrest him with a car­load of weapons.”

With his New York plan thwarted, authorities believe Holmes set his sights on an easier target – the Century 16 movie theater near his apartment. He chose the film’s midnight premiere on July 20 for his madness.

But the sicko also planned to kill anyone who tried to open the door of his apartment – booby trapping it with enough flammable liquid to blow up the entire building, say cops.

In his second court appearance yesterday, James Holmes was charged with 24 counts of 1st degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. Holmes was also charged with one count of possession of an explosive, and one count of a "crime of violence." Holmes' lawyers have yet to enter a plea.