‘Harry Potter’ breaks U.K. record

Best four-day figure ever

LONDON — Fantasy franchise “Harry Potter” has lost none of its magic at the U.K. box office where the latest installment conjured up a whammo $33.4 million (£16.4 million) in its first four days, an all-time four-day record for any pic in the territory.

The huge “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opening is particularly pleasing for Warner Bros. brass as the only other “Potter” to bow in summer — “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004) — did less biz than the other three pics.

“With these record-breaking opening figures we’ve proven that Harry Potter can launch in both November and in the summer and we’re very happy to be on screen during the whole of the summer holidays, which kick in during our third week,” said Josh Berger, president and m.d., Warner Bros., U.K.

Much has been made in the Brit press of the darker tone of the fifth Potter, Brit director David Yates’ first turn at the helm. To Berger, the slightly new feel is in keeping with the changing audience, “The kids who first embraced Harry are getting older and the story is developing new layers and new depth as the audience broadens but there is no question that younger kids are still drawn to this film and the franchise generally.”

He added that booming toy sales demonstrate the enduring appeal to tykes.

The frenzy of excitement surrounding the July 21 release of tome “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and last book in J.K. Rowling’s book series, has contributed to the buzz for the fifth pic.

Online bookseller Amazon reported worldwide advance sales of over 2 million for 608-page “Deathly Hallows,” already way ahead of previous record holder “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which clocked up 1.5 million advance sales. In the U.K., 600,000 or a staggering one copy for every 43 households, will be mailed out this weekend.

Bouts of rain showers over the weekend encouraged a trip to the local cinema. Also in “Phoenix’s” favor was the fact there was no distractions from major televised sporting events over the July 12-15 four-day frame.

The massive “Phoenix” take propelled overall box office grosses up 80% on the previous weekend frame, which was topped by the soph sesh of “Shrek the Third.”

“Phoenix” faces its first serious competition when “The Simpsons Movie” and “Transfomers” enter the fray on July 27. The 11 days until the arrival of those two juggernauts are there for Harry’s taking.

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