‘Potter’ breaking box office records

'Phoenix' soars with $44.2 million opening

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” scored the biggest Wednesday opening of all time and the fifth largest in movie history for any day of the week, with an estimated take of $44.2 million from 4,181 locations.

Combined with an impressive opening foreign take of $29.9 million, the bespectacled boy wizard is whipping up magic for Warner. In France, pic opened at $5.9 million, the second highest opening day of all time in that market.

Stateside, the film goes into 4,285 theaters today, the highest theater count on the books after this summer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which bowed in 4,362 locations.

Moving into its second frame, DreamWorks and Paramount’s “Transfomers” is likely to look a little tarnished in the shadow of “Phoenix,” although with a seven-day opening of $155.2 million, “Transformers” is in more than fine shape.

Other new entries this weekend include horror title “Captivity,” which After Dark Films is bowing on more than 1,000 screens, and Don Cheadle starrer “Talk to Me,” which Focus Features opens in a limited run in 33 locations. Sony Pictures Classics opens “Interview” in seven Gotham and L.A. theaters, while IFC bows “My Best Friend” in three theaters in those two cities.

On the Warner lot, “Phoenix” marked the biggest opening ever for the studio. Previous record holder was “The Matrix Reloaded,” whose opening day take was $42.5 million.

There is no doubt that “Phoenix” will do a bigger opening number than any the first four Potter pics, particularly since it’s the first title in the blockbuster franchise to get a five-day opening.

The last film, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” made $103 million during its opening weekend in November 2005. “Phoenix” is expected to come in substantially north of that.

In terms of a Wednesday opening, the boy wizard easily bested “Spider-Man 2,” which, at $40.4 million, previously held the record. The $44.2 million tally for “Phoneix” included a record-breaking midnight run of $12 million. It also marked the second-highest opening day of the summer after “Spider-Man 3,” which opened on a Friday to $59.8 million.

The only four films scoring a bigger opening day tally are “Spider-Man 3” ($59.8 million), “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ($55 million), “Star Wars: Episode III –Revenge of the Sith” ($50 million) and “X-Men: The Last Stand” ($45 million).

“Phoenix” also made Imax history. Bowing on a record-breaking 91 screens, “Phoenix” made $1.9 million. besting “Spider-Man 3,” whose take was $1.8 million.

Overseas, rival distribs have opted to clear out of the way of “Phoenix” this weekend with only a smattering of launches, including “Transformers” in Greece, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in the Czech Republic and “Hostel: Part II” in France.

Germany ($3.6 million), Italy ($3.1 million) and Spain ($2.6 million) all launched impressively, with the Italian mark representing the second biggest opening day ever. The Italian bow is notable since Hollywood frequently shuns summer releases in Italy because locals usually desert theaters and hit the beaches.

Brazil’s $1.5 million opening day for “Phoenix” was the second biggest for that market. Holland set a first-day record with $980,000 as did Belgium with $780,000.

The early Asia/Pacific numbers also looked impressive, led by $3.5 million in Australia and $1.3 million in South Korea — respectively, the fourth and fifth biggest industry launch days.

Those early results portend that “Phoenix” is headed toward the same territory as the other four “Potter” pics. Opening international numbers also indicate that this summer will be the first in industry history with three pics topping the half billion dollar mark in foreign grosses.

Harry Potter won’t be bereft of competition overseas, given that “Transformers” — expected to lead the rest of the pack — “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Shrek the Third” combined for $125 million last weekend in foreign markets.

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