Pic may score best midnight gross of all time

In a massive start, Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” easily scored the biggest midnight gross of all-time in earning $22.2 million as it unspooled in 3,003 runs at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

That figure beats the $18 million earned in midnight runs by Warners’ very own “The Dark Knight” and the $17 million earned by 20th Century Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III —Revenge of the Sith.”

“Half-Blood Prince” opens in the same Wednesday slot that “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” did in 2007. “Order of the Phoenix” grossed $12 million in midnight runs on its way to a $139.7 million five-day debut.

B.O. observers expect the boy—or rather, teenage—wizard to be as popular as ever, if not more so. It’s been two years since the last Potter pic, or the last book in J.K. Rowling’s series, creating a pent-up demand.

Earlier this summer, Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” also opened on a Wednesday, grossed $16 million in midnight runs.

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