Hearty ‘Harry’ hits U.K. record books

Pic dominated 19 foreign markets, broke records in U.K., Germany

There was certainly something about “Harry” on the international B.O. scene during the Nov. 18-20 frame. Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” conjured up an international weekend gross of $85.5 million, and the studio even saw a 7% boost from its initial $80 million estimate.

“Harry” dominated in all 19 foreign markets in which the pic opened, with record breaking draws in the U.K., Germany. Asian turf also responded. In China the pic neared $4.2 million in its first frame, and was also a high-flier in Japan.

Warners is rolling out “Harry” as a staggered international release, and so major territories including France, Spain and Italy are still waiting with bated breath. Thanks to “Harry’s” magic, U.K. biz was up a whopping 133% from the previous frame and 104% as compared to the same weekend last year. The record-breaking bow sent biz rocketing skyward.

Among the records “Harry” managed to set in the magician’s homeland were:

  •  Biggest Friday, Saturday and Sunday takes in the territory;

  •  Biggest three-day weekend in the territory, without previews;

  •  Biggest three-day launch; and;

  •  Biggest single day take in territory (Saturday).

Exhibs were understandably delighted with the whammo bow, with one commenting, “It’s not often in this business that your high expectations for a movie are exceeded so spectacularly.”

Most bizzers were expecting $20 million and hoping for $24 million. To conjure $25,607,177 had them elated.

“Even our quietest sites on the circuit were on the phone requesting additional interlocks to facilitate the film to be shown on different projectors from the same print,” adds another exhib.

Pic’s colossal success was attributed to its darker feel than the previous franchise installments, as well as a strong campaign. This being the first time a “Potter” pic has been released the same year as one of the series books also helped matters.

Many of the pic’s screenings sold out over the weekend, including some Friday ayem screenings, which surprised some Blighty exhibs. U.K. bookers feel the fourth “Potter” pic is on track to hit between $68 million and $77 million, depending on legs.

Hopes are high it can play better in the week than previous “Potter” pics with more teens coming in to catch it. Pic should not drop too drastically in its U.K. soph sesh as exhibs report many potential auds were turned away.

But contrary to expectations, “Potter” did not totally destroy competish: “Wallace” (-55%) and “Nanny McPhee” (-51%) continued to hold admirably. Bookers were expecting both pics to cave in closer to 60% and feel the “overflow factor” probably helped both hold their own. Meanwhile, Fox’s female-skewing “In Her Shoes” placed second and word-of-mouth player “The Constant Gardener” took the U.K.’s third spot, benefiting from good counter-programming, and dipping just 27%. Only real disappointment of the weekend was Johnny Depp starrer “The Libertine.” Exhibs feel the pic had perhaps “been in the pipeline too long.”

“Harry” also enchanted Germany, where pic broke records, drawing the biggest weekend auds of any film there ever. Latest Hogwarts tale attracted 2,685,158 viewers, breaking the previous weekend record held by “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” whose opening weekend auds numbered 2,666,776. But “Harry” grossed a weekend B.O. of $21,686,442, a tad less than the $22,051,336 made by “The Return of the King” in its opening weekend in December 2003.

The pic helped boost B.O. by 175% as compared to the previous frame.

“We have been waiting all year for this,” gushes one Teutonic exhib. “The latest ‘Harry Potter’ did better than we had expected. It’s a film that is attracting a really broad range of people, from kids to seniors. So many people have fallen in love with Harry through the books, and films, that the audience keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Previous installment, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” only made $14,629,608 in its opening weekend in Germany. “‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ is the best book in the series,” another exhib says. “The film’s darker story and teenage characters make the film a lot more interesting for older viewers. Of course, many kids have grown up with ‘Harry Potter,’ but the stories remain cool and have grown up, too.”

Without “Harry” to help them out yet, Gallic exhibs braced for a 36% drop in tallies as compared to the previous weekend. Rising to number one its soph sesh, local pic “Merry Christmas” rose to the No. 1 spot, despite 35% drop in admissions.

French pic took home $2 million through Sunday, switching positions with “Sky Fighters,” which fell to No. 2 in its second week, losing an estimated 50% of its admissions. Two U.S. pics made Gallic bows, seeing mediocre perfs: Coming in at number six in its first week, “In Her Shoes” took home $781,671 on 315 screens. Pic’s average gross per screen was a limp $2,481. Exhibs in France expect the pic to fall off the map.

Coming in at number eight on the list, “Doom” had little buzz, and distrib UIP didn’t make a whole lot of effort to remedy the problem. Further evidence of a lack of confidence in the sci-fi pic was its small opening on 216 screens. Looking ahead in France, exhibs are salivating over the upcoming debut of “Harry Potter.”

Despite having no “Harry” to cast his spell, frame was a healthy one in Spain, thanks to BVI’s “Chicken Little,” where B.O. hiked 10%, grossing a total $12.7 million, the second-biggest B.O. of 2005. (The record was set Sept. 30-Oct. 2 when B.O. peaked at $14.5 million, powered by the opening of “Torrente 3.”)

Increase is making bookers hope that B.O. might recover over the last months of the year, though 2005 will never reach 2004’s final gross in Spain. “Chicken” topped the charts making $2.8 million over its first frame. One booker says, ” ‘Chicken’ made $1 million north of our forecasts, maybe because it’s the first movie in a long time for small children.”

“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” ranked No. 2, making a $2.3 million in its debut, also above expectations. Ranking third in Spain was a good hold for “Flightplan,” which was down 38% from its opening. “The Legend of Zorro” ranked seventh and fell 56%. Its average per copy is the lowest of the top 10: just $1,310. Despite its quick drop, pic has cumed $9 million in 24 days.

Italo B.O. jumped 8% thanks to racy local entry “Melissa P.” Sony pic is based on a teen from Catania, Sicily, who wrote a bestselling book based on her own sexual experiences. But exhibs expect “Harry” to topple “Melissa.” No. 2 Italo slot went to “March of the Penguins,” which in Italy was voiced by local comic Fiorello.

Down Under, “Harry” doesn’t open until Dec. 1 when kids will be beginning summer vacation. Without “Harry” in Oz, big pic was horror sequel “Saw II.” It took $1.3 million four-day weekend haul.

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

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