Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Harry Potter Breaks Weekend Records

Plus, Transformers falls, and Winnie the Pooh debuts at No. 6.

by | July 18, 2011 | Comments

This weekend, box office records of all kinds were demolished by the wildly anticipated franchise closer Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which generated the biggest opening in Hollywood history. The eighth and final chapter in the decade-long fantasy series opened to an eye-popping $168.6M from North America, according to estimates, plus an additional $307M from overseas markets which began running the film on Wednesday leading to a scorching worldwide launch of $475.6M. All three figures broke the all-time records beating The Dark Knight‘s $158.4M domestic opening weekend in July 2008, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides‘ $260.4M international bow this past May, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince‘s $394M global debut in July 2009.

Domestically, the new Potter also smashed records for the best ever midnight launch with $43.5M on late Thursday night including 3:00am shows that many theaters added, and a colossal $92.1M opening day including those midnights. The previous records were held by the Twilight franchise with last summer’s Eclipse having a $30M midnight bow and 2009’s New Moon posting a $72.7M first day. Like a boxer unifying multiple titles, Harry Potter pulled off a remarkable feat setting new box office records in five major categories.

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The new Potter installment opened ultrawide in 4,375 theaters – including a record 274 IMAX venues – and was the first in the franchise to be presented in 3D which helped to boost the grosses. As with most action epics, North American moviegoers were less interested in the 3D conversion as 43% of the weekend gross came from the extra-dimensional screens while overseas the rate was much higher at 61%. The domestic per-theater average stood at a sturdy $38,526.

The concluding chapter’s opening weekend was a healthy 35% bigger than the $125M bow last November of Part 1 which was in 2D and went on to finish with $295M. The first seven Potter films have grossed a sizzling $6.36 billion worldwide and the franchise now sits at $6.84 billion with the launch of the final saga. The series will shatter the $7 billion mark in a matter of days.

Critics and audiences both loved the new Deathly Hallows. Reviews were not only among the best for the series, but also rank as among the most positive for any wide release this year. Warner Bros. will be hoping that the regular Oscar attention it receives for the wizard franchise will this time go beyond the technical categories and into other areas including Best Picture. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the PG-13 pic an overall A grade. This does not necessarily mean the film will have legs as Potter pics are always heavily front-loaded with this one being even more so.

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The historic frame began with the stunning $92.1M Friday which included the intense demand from fans to see right away how the saga ends on the big screen. Saturday sales crumbled by a very high 54% to $42.9M which did not come close to breaking the record for the largest Saturday. Spider-Man 3 still holds that distinction with $51.3M from May 2007. The studio estimated a 22% dip on Sunday to $33.6M. With such upfront demand, Friday accounted for a whopping 55% of the three-day gross.

IMAX also broke domestic and global records with the new Hallows. Fans spent $15.5M from the North American sites beating the $12.2M of last weekend’s Alice in Wonderland and $23.5M from 394 screens worldwide beating the most recent Transformers which did $20.4M. The previous recordholders were also in 3D.

Being a global phenomenon, it was no surprise that grosses around the world were sensational for Harry’s last stand with nearly a half-billion dollars collected in just five days. The jaw-dropping $307M overseas debut came from 20,000 screens across 59 countries with China still to come on August 4. Leading the way this weekend (with different numbers of days depending on local launches) were the United Kingdom with $36.6M, Australia with $26.7M, Germany with $25.7M, France with $23.9M, and Japan with $21.5M. Like in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia set all-time opening weekend records too.

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Despite rising ticket prices over the years, the first film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone overseas) still holds the series records for total domestic and worldwide grosses with $317.6M and $970M, respectively. Those could crumble too as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 may find its way north of $325M from North America and $1 billion globally.

Michael Bay took a hit by the teen wizard as his latest action juggernaut Transformers: Dark of the Moon fell 55% in its third frame to an estimated $21.3M. But the latest Autobots film burst through the triple century mark finishing the weekend at $302.8M. Declines for previous chapters when a new Potter debuted were lower with 48% in 2007 and 44% in 2009. However, both of those Hogwarts films debuted on a Wednesday diluting the weekend figures. With both new chapters of Transformers and Harry Potter being in 3D, the fight for those special screens also played into this weekend’s showdown.

With rival summer action films Captain America: The First Avenger, Cowboys & Aliens, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes opening over each of the next three weekends, more large declines are likely in the weeks ahead putting Dark of the Moon on course to finish with about $360M domestically. Overseas, Transformers felt the heat of Hogwarts too with the weekend take falling 58% to an estimated $39M. With the international cume now up to $460M – a new high for the franchise thanks in part to 3D prices – the global tally surged to a stunning $762.8M with China and Japan still to open. Korea has led all overseas markets with $61.6M to date.

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The Warner Bros. comedy Horrible Bosses held up quite well in its second weekend grossing an estimated $17.6M for a relatively low 38% decline. The R-rated workplace pic has banked an impressive $60M in just ten days and could end up breaking the $100M mark. Fellow sophomore comedy Zookeeper fared well too dipping only 39% to an estimated $12.3M. Sony has taken in $42.4M in ten days with the expensive Kevin James project and could be on the way to around $75M.

A pair of G-rated toons from Disney followed. The Pixar sequel Cars 2 fell 45% to an estimated $8.3M for a $165.3M sum to date. By comparison, the first Cars enjoyed a $14.6M gross in its fourth lap. Breaking $200M may be a tough mission to accomplish for Mater and pals who may end closer to the $190M mark. The Mouse House saw a soft debut for its well-reviewed animated tale Winnie the Pooh which debuted to an estimated $8M from 2,405 locations for a mild $3,326 average.

The Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher dropped 42% to an estimated $5.2M giving Sony a solid $88.5M to date. Diaz’s My Best Friend’s Wedding co-star Julia Roberts, who is also on screen now as a bad teacher, followed with the Tom Hanks film Larry Crowne which suffered another steep fall sliding 57% to an estimated $2.6M. Universal has collected a mere $31.6M to date.

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Rounding out the top ten with estimates of $1.9M each were the sci-fi drama Super 8 and the Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris. The Paramount actioner tumbled 60% with Potter‘s arrival putting the cume at $122.2M. The Sony Classics release dipped only 28% and has taken in $41.8M so far making it the veteran director’s all-time top-grossing film passing the $40.1M of 1986’s Hannah and her Sisters. Of course, Hannah and films like Annie Hall and Manhattan all sold a much larger amount of tickets.

New domestic totals for top summer grossers outside the top ten include $251.9M for The Hangover Part II, $237.3M for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, $209.1M for Fast Five, $179.5M for Thor, $161.3M for Bridesmaids, $160.1M for Kung Fu Panda 2, $143.4M for X-Men: First Class, $112.7M for Green Lantern.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $247.7M which was up a potent 46% from last year when Inception opened in the top spot with $62.8M; and up a huge 65% from 2009 when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince debuted at number one with $77.8M over the weekend and $158M over five days.

Written by Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

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