‘Harry Potter’ rules the world

Boy wizard dominates international box office

Pottermania ruled the world as the opening weekend of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” dominated international moviegoing with a socko $190.3 million from more than 12,000 prints.

The launch represented the third biggest international opening frame ever, trailing only “Spider-Man 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

Warner Bros.’ fifth “Potter” pic finished first in all 61 markets in which it opened, setting marks as the biggest four-day launch in the U.K. at $32.5 million, the second-biggest openings ever in Mexico at $10 million and Brazil at $7.1 million and the fifth-largest in Australia at $14.4 million, South Korea at $12.1 million and Italy at $11 million. And its German launch of $18.7 million matched “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” as the top Teutonic opening of the year.

All told, “Phoenix” obliterated any concerns over franchise fatigue as it conjured up the best foreign debut of the five “Potter” films. The quintet’s now grossed a collective $2.6 billion overseas and $3.9 billion worldwide, with two more pics — “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — coming in 2008 and 2010.

Hollywood’s mega-tentpoles continue to connect with international moviegoers this summer. Even though Warner Bros. won’t open “Phoenix” in Japan and Russia until next weekend, it conjured the same kind of overwhelming overseas launch as “Spider-Man 3” ($231 million in a six-day foreign debut) and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($216 million in its first five-day weekend and $245 million in its first six days).

With its gangbusters foreign opening, “Phoenix” has also solidified sky-high expectations that it will become the 16th film to gross half a billion dollars overseas — a distinction shared by “Pirates 3,” “Spider-Man 3” and all four previous Potter pics. And with “Transformers,” “Shrek the Third” and “Live Free or Die Hard” remaining potent players — combining for $73 million during the weekend –Hollywood studios kept pedal to the metal with year-to-date grosses 13% ahead of 2006 overseas.

Key international milestone for “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” will be matching the perf of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the only other pic in the series released during the summer and the lowest grosser at $540 million.

One of the most impressive signs of “Phoenix” fever came in Italy, where studios have opted out of mid-summer openings due to the perceived reluctance of Italians to patronize multiplexes in hot weather. “Phoenix” was the first major pic to open in mid-July in the seven years since “Mission: Impossible 2” and its success will probably pave the way for more Italian summer launches.

Warners didn’t announce results from Japanese sneaks for “Phoenix” in advance of Friday’s opening. Japan’s been by far the top overseas market for the prior “Potter” pics with more than $500 million in grosses, so next weekend’s total international takings should top $100 million.

More on the menu

It wasn’t all wizards and witches at international multiplexes.

Par’s “Transformers” continued to exceed expectations with solid traction outside the United States, landing $35.9 million at 3,793 playdates in 33 territories — including a foreign launch record in China of $12.6 million over its first five days.

“Transformers” remained respectable in its third South Korean frame with a 47% decline to $5.7 million, boosting the market’s cume to $38 million. The Michael Bay vehicle — which has yet to open in France, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the U.K. — has already hit $146.4 million overseas.

“Shrek the Third,” Par’s other summer tentpole, didn’t vanish amid competition from Harry Potter, posting a 48% decline to $18.7 million at 5,390 in 54 markets. The ogre’s Brit biz slid 51% to $5 million in its third frame, lifting the U.K. cume to $61.1 million; foreign biz has met studio expectations with $361.5 million, or 75% of the final international cume for “Shrek 2,” with Italy and Scandinavia still to open.

Fox’s “Live Free or Die Hard” took the biggest hit from Harry Potter, sliding 58% to $17.7 million at 6,900 in 49 markets. The actioner fell 62% in soph seshes in the U.K. and France to $3.9 million and $2.6 million, respectively; in Japan, with “Potter” only in sneak screenings, the third frame held nicely with a 24% decline to $2.5 million.

The Bruce Willis actioner, known as “Die Hard 4” overseas, has taken in $123 million overseas so far, in line with studio forecasts, as Fox has held off in key markets such as Italy, Spain and South Korea, where it’ll open the pic next weekend. But it’s unlikely to match the $260 million international cume for series’ prior installment, “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

With rivals mostly clearing out of the way of Harry Potter, the only other significant biz came from a quartet of holdovers — BVI’s “Ratatouille” with $5.8 million at 2,098 in 13 markets and its “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” with $4.4 million at 4,746; Warner’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” with $4.35 million at 3,400 in 54 territories; and Fox’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” with $3.2 million at 4,000 in 39 markets.

The third “Pirates” has reached $634.8 million internationally, trailing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” by just $7.4 million. Global grosses are at $939 million.

Universal, which has been holding off most of its slate until later in the summer, saw decent Australian biz from its soph sesh of “Knocked Up,” down 33% to $2 million for a $6.7 million cume, nearly matching “The 40 Year Old Virigin” in its first foreign market.

Sony, which has stopped reporting “Spider-Man 3” grosses, scared up $1 million for “Hostel 2” at 850, lifting the international cume to $12.3 million.

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