Wiz casts $101 million spell

Harry Potter’s power over moviegoers grows stronger with age, as the teen wizard conjured his best box office ever in his fourth outing, grossing $101.4 million on 3,858 screens for a magical $26,290 per play.

That gives WB’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” the fourth biggest Friday-Sunday gross of all time, displacing the previous franchise entry, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and falling behind only “Spider-Man,” “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” and “Shrek 2.” The latter two opened midweek.

It’s the only pic in the all-time top five that didn’t open in May or June, making it the biggest holiday season bow ever.

Total worldwide take, including an additional 5,900 screens in 19 foreign territories, was $181.4 million.

The weekend also was bright for the man in black. Fox’s “Walk the Line” proved effective counter-programming among adults, as it bowed to $22.4 million on 2,961 screens, the biggest opening ever against a “Potter” pic.

“Potter’s” perf shaved a point off the year’s overall B.O. deficit compared with 2004; it now stands at 6%.

With another film taking most kids’ attention, Disney’s “Chicken Little” fell to earth in its third frame. CG toon declined 53% to $14.8 million in its third frame, bringing its cume to $99.2 million. Last weekend, it dropped only 21%.

Despite the first PG-13 rating for a “Potter” pic, demos for “Goblet of Fire” were similar to 2004’s “Azkaban.” Kids made up 42% of the aud, with parents another 20% and non-family adults 38%.

“This is the biggest weekend in Warner Bros. history,” noted WB distrib prexy Dan Fellman. “With three more (Potter pics) to go, we’re looking forward to leaving more marks in the record books.”

“Potter” reached the stratosphere without setting any one-day records. First-day take of $39.4 million does tie it with “Spider-Man” for the biggest Friday ever, but that’s the seventh highest opening day in history.

In a promising sign for playability, “Goblet of Fire” declined only 10% to $35.5 million on Saturday.

The first three “Potter” pics bowed with, in order, $90.3 million, $88.4 million and $93.7 million, with the first two opening in November 2001 and 2002 and the third in June 2004.

“Goblet of Fire” made $2.8 million on 66 Imax screens over the weekend, giving it a per-play average of $42,951. That’s the highest ever in the giant-screen format, just beating the $2.7 million record set by “The Polar Express.”

Firm ‘Line’

Meanwhile, Fox is pleased that “Walk the Line” managed to make some noise in the face of a B.O. behemoth. Johnny Cash biopic strummed up $7,565 per play on 2,961 screens.

Film played with adults in red and blue states, as auds were drawn by both the subject matter and positive reviews.

“It was selling out in towns I’ve never seen sell out and doing business in the upscale marketplace,” crowed Fox distrib topper Bruce Snyder.

That compares well to last year’s musical biopic “Ray,” which opened to $20 million in late October and went on to cume $75.3 million.

“Walk the Line” played almost exclusively to the late teens and up, with 62% of the aud over 25; 57% of viewers were female.

Soft sophs

Meanwhile, amongst a trio of pics in their second week, Weinstein Co.’s debut solo release, “Derailed,” took the top spot, falling 47% to fourth place with $6.5 million. Cume stands at $21.8 million.

Sony’s “Zathura” couldn’t get much of the family aud against “Harry Potter” and “Chicken Little,” dropping 62% to fifth place with $5.1 million. It has made a total of $20.3 million.

“Get Rich or Die Tryin'” is taking the latter course for Par. The 50 Cent biopic fell 64% to land in seventh place with $4.4 million in its second frame, bringing its cume to $24.5 million.

Thanks to “Goblet of Fire,” weekend was up 21% from a year ago, when “National Treasure” opened to $35.1 million, followed closely by “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”

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