'Order of the Phoenix' sets box office ablaze

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” whipped up a powerful potion at the box office, nabbing the best ever five-day opening for a non-holiday pic at an estimated $140 million, part of a summer box office bonanza.

Overseas, Harry Potter’s wizardry was just as plentiful. “Phoenix,” which reps Warners’ biggest global opener ever, made an estimated $190.3 million in its first five days from 44 countries for a whopping worldwide total of $330 million. It’s the third-highest foreign opening on record. Pic is on track to become the best-performing in the franchise, one of several sequels this summer that has opened stronger than previous installments.

Despite the Harry Potter juggernaut, holdovers displayed remarkable stamina. Overall, domestic box office receipts for the top 10 pics were up 14% over the same weekend last year, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” led the pack in its second frame.

Already this summer, three sequels have crossed the $300 million mark domestically — “Spider-Man 3,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Shrek the Third” — with “Transformers” and now “Phoenix” on their way.

One weak spot over the weekend — auds didn’t go for horror title “Captivity,” the only other new wide release after “Phoenix,” fueling sentiments that the torture-porn genre is stale. Pic, from After Dark Films, made estimated $1.5 million from 1,050 locations, putting it at No. 12.

Coming in No. 2 was DreamWorks and Paramount’s “Transformers,” which dropped only 49% in its second frame. Tentpole made $36 million from 4,050 locations for a new domestic cume of $223 million.

Coming in No. 3 and No. 4 were Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” and 20th Century Fox’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” which were down just 38% and 39%, respectively, in their third frames. “Ratatouille” boiled up $18 million from 3,625 theaters for a new cume of $143 million.

“Live Free” crossed the $100 million mark at the box office, taking in $10.9 million from 3,201 locations for a new cume of $102.9 million.

Warner Bros. also nabbed the No. 5 spot with laffer “License to Wed,” which made an estimated $7.4 million from 2,715 locations in its second frame, a mere 29% drop. Pic’s cume now stands at $30.5 million.

Michael Moore’s docu “Sicko” held at No. 9, dropping only 26% as it expanded 756 theaters, with a healthy new cume of $15.8 million. A handful of other niche titles also enjoyed the bloom of full summer, although Paramount Vantage’s “A Mighty Heart” still failed to find its aud.“Phoenix,” directed by David Yates, made $77.4 million over the weekend from a whopping 4,285 locations, after opening to $44.2 million on Wednesday, the biggest Wednesday on record and the fifth largest opening day overall. Film made another $18.4 million Thursday.

Previous record for the best non-holiday, five-day opening was held by “Shrek 2,” which ponied up $128.9 million when bowing in May 2004.

“This could certainly prove itself to be the biggest Potter movie we’ve had to date,” Warner Bros. prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said.

It’s the first time that a Potter film has gotten a five-day opening; the others all opened on a Friday. In terms of the weekend itself, “Phoenix” clocked in the lowest. But, going by the five days, it’s the best bow in the franchise after “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” which opened to $102.7 million.

The first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” remains the best performing overall, with a worldwide cume of $976.4 million. Domestic take was $317.5 million; overseas, the cume was $658 million.

Only one other Potter pic has been released in the summer, and that was “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the lowest performing film in the franchise. All the others debuted just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Opening perf of “Phoenix” dispelled any worries that summer is cursed for the boy wizard.

“Phoenix” also broke Imax records, making an estimated $7.3 million from 91 locations over the first-five days, the best opening on the books, according to Imax’s Greg Foster. That’s a per screen average of $80,512.

Fellman was equally as elated over “License to Wed,” starring Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski, which has performed better than projected.

“For a movie we positioned as counter-programming, we are very pleased with the results,” Fellman said. “We had an exceptional hold. Usually, pics drop very fast in the summer.”

Many had predicted that “Transformers” would drop by more than 50% in its second frame. But the pic, directed by Michael Bay and based on the Hasbro toy line, more than held its own.

“It looks like we’re doing a little bit of our own wizardry,” DreamWorks spokesman Marvin Levy said.

Another frighteningly strong holdover was Dimension’s more conventional horror film “1408,” distributed by MGM. The John Cusack starrer pulled ahead of Universal’s pricey comedy “Evan Almighty” to take the No. 6 spot. Film, down 29%, made an estimated $5 million from 2,206 locations for a new total of $62.2 million.

“Evan” made $4.9 million from 2,702 locations for a new cume of $87.9 million, down 43%. U also took No. 7 with its hit summer laffer “Knocked Up,” which made $3.6 million in its 8th frame for a new total of $138.1 million, down only 30%.

“Phoenix” and “Transformers” have another weekend to duke it out before Fox bows “The Simpsons” on July 27.

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