‘Harry’ works B.O. magic in China

Pic looks set to become country's biggest imported film this year

You didn’t need a crystal ball to know that Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” would continue to work magic on international auds. Over the Nov. 25-27 frame, fourth pic in the franchise crossed the $209 million mark, adding $97.4 million to its growing cauldron.

Pic is being distribbed as a staggered release, so “Harry” hasn’t even begun to cast his spell in fertile spots such as France, Australia and South Korea.

Beyond the expected boffo bows in various Euro territories, “Harry” set his sights on some more far-flung locales, including up-and-coming China.

There, the pic took in $8.2 million in just 10 days, and looks set to become the biggest imported film in China this year.

“Without question, the box office will reach 80 million yuan ($10 million), and quite possibly, 100 million yuan ($12 million),” said Weng Li of distrib China Film Group.

Pic was the first in the “Potter” series to open simultaneously with the States (Nov. 18), and the film scored a publicity coup when Arnold Schwarzenegger attended a preem in Shanghai during his visit to China last month.

In New Zealand, “Harry” recorded the fifth-highest opening weekend ever, trailing only behind Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” pics and “Shrek 2.”

Meantime, back in “Harry’s” homeland, Blighty biz overall was down 20% from the previous frame, and down by 4% from the same weekend a year ago.

“Harry” took in $16 million in its second weekend.

“After its colossal opening,” said one, “a drop-off of anything below 40% is a fantastic result. To be honest, even a drop-off close to 50% would not have been disastrous after its sensational opening.”

Bookers in the U.K. now predict that the fourth “Potter” will cume close to $85 million, $17 million more than the last pic. And until “Narnia” and “King Kong” enter the marketplace, “Potter” will boss biz.

But few bookers feel the latest “Harry” pic will outstrip the third installment, which did $94 million,

Other top three finishers in the U.K. were Buena Vista Intl.s’ “Flightplan” and Sony’s “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

One disappointment of the weekend was the underwhelming “Mrs. Henderson Presents” bow on home turf. Stephen Frears pic, which stars Brit talent Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, limped into the fourth spot with 25% less coin than hoped for. Exhibs point out that it is not a three-day movie and is playing well in the week, but are nonetheless disappointed. Pic, from Pathe, looks set for a $5 million final cume.

“Harry” continued to dazzle German auds as well, despite a hefty drop in admissions. Pic’s slide caused German B.O. to slip more than 43%, but the latest “Potter” adventure has in its second week already become the second most successful film of the year in Germany following “Madagascar.”

With 1.26 million admissions in its soph sesh, pic has failed to surpass the second-week performances of the first two “Potter” pics, “The Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Chamber of Secrets,” which attracted 1.8 million and 1.7 million viewers respectively.

“It’s outstanding,” exclaimed one Teutonic exhib. “It fell quite a bit, but that was expected considering its massive opening weekend.”

With “Potter”-mania gripping German auds, Sony’s “Exorcism of Emily Rose” managed a respectable opening in second. Bookers said press coverage and the fact that the film is based on a real-life incident in Germany helped drum up interest.

New entries last week “Serenity” (UIP), Gallic pic “Merry Christmas” (Senator) and Robert Redford starrer “An Unfinished Life” (Tobis) were all scorched by “Harry”‘s heat.

Italy, another territory that has been in need of a hit, saw its B.O. take off with “Harry”: Ticket sales were up 55% as compared to last frame’s numbers and 76% from the same weekend last year.

“The film has gone beyond our expectations by 20% or 30%,” said one Italo exhib. “Potter” took in nearly $8.5 million in its boffo bow.

But bookers wonder whether the pic will hit the lofty heights of the earlier “Potter” pics.

“Potter” carried the entire Italian B.O. scene along with it. Sony’s local hit, the racy “Melissa P.,” held well with a 25% drop, taking second position after Potter.

Local distrib Lucky Red’s “March of the Penguins” waddled into the third spot in Italy.

Italo exhibs foresee “Harry” sustaining a 25%-30% drop.

Spain was another lucky strike for “Potter,” where the pic helped local B.O. rise 33% from the previous frame to a year-to-date record of $17.1 million.

“Harry” cumed $8 million of that overall take, off of 527 prints. Pic’s boffo bow even bested the most recent “Star Wars” sequel in Spain, but is still only the second-best bow of the year there this year after local sensation “Torrente 3” mopped up.

In Spain, the latest “Harry” pic bested its predecessors’ openings. But bookers cautioned that it also opened on more screens than any of the other pics.

“I don’t think ‘Harry Potter’ can hold well when pics like ‘King Kong’ (which bows Dec. 14) and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ (opening Dec. 9) come,” cautioned one Spanish booker. “We will see next weekend: if it drops nearly 50% that will be fatal.”

Down Under, without “Potter” to pump its figures, B.O. was down 11% from the same frame in 2004. But Oz exhibs are hoping that the upcoming “Potter” pic can capitalize on buzz from its U.S. release, and cater to end-of-year school excursions before playing through summer vacation, which begins mid-December.

With “Potter” also yet to fly over to France, local pics took advantage of the opening, with GCT’s “Palais Royal,” a comedy set in the world of Euro royalty, placing first, bowing with a healthy near $5.5 million opening. Pic trounced UIP’s second place finisher, “Just Like Heaven,” which rose to $1.7 million in its opening frame.

(Ed Meza in Germany, Archie Thomas in the U.K., Liza Klaussmann in France, Sheri Jennings in Italy, Esther de Prado in Spain, Michaela Boland in Australia and Patrick Frater in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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