‘Potter’ conjures up $396.7 worldwide

'Prince' opens overseas with record $237 million

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” cleared nearly $400 million in its worldwide debut, conjuring up the biggest overseas opening of all time at $237 million and grossing $159.7 million domestically.

Total tally of $396.7 million is the strongest start ever for a “Harry Potter” film — and one of the top bows of all time. That strength is an indication that fans who have grown up with the franchise are more loyal than ever, even as they mature into adulthood. Exit polls in the U.S. showed that people over age 18 comprised 60% of the pic’s aud, a far greater percentage than was noted for the five previous titles in the series.

Studios don’t often offer praise to their rivals, but in this case, competing execs said Warners has done a magical job in managing the “Potter” franchise by staying true to J.K. Rowling’s book series, a mandate dictated by Rowling’s wishes and enacted by Warners prexy-chief operating office Alan Horn from the start.

Also over the weekend, Fox Searchlight’s romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer” offered a respite from popcorn fare, bowing to a sizzling $837,588 from 27 locations in the top 10 markets for a per-location average of $31,022.

Among holdovers, however, Universal’s release “Bruno” saw steep drops in its second sesh, making it unlikely that the R-rated laffer will come anywhere near what Cohen’s “Borat” cumed domestically ($128.5 million) or internationally ($133.1 million).

“Bruno” tumbled 73% at the domestic B.O. to an estimated $8.3 million from 2,759 theaters for a 10-day cume of $49.6 million. Overseas, pic fell 54% to $10.6 million from 2,400 playdates in 30 territories for a foreign cume of $46 million and worldwide tally of $95.6 million.

Universal said the movie would still be profitable for the studio, which acquired the project from Media Rights Capital for $42.5 million. That figure does not include marketing costs.

U is also distributing in eight key territories. Its portion of the $10.6 million weekend gross was $8.3 million. Universal’s portion of the total foreign cume is $36.3 million for a global take of $85.9 million.

“Bruno” was heartily outgunned in territories where it went up against “Half-Blood Prince” and 20th Century Fox holdover “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which remained resilient in its third frame.

“Dawn of the Dinosaurs” survived the onslaught of the boy wizard to gross another $60.7 million at the international B.O. from 11,222 screens in 102 markets. Cume of $429 million makes it the biggest title of the year overseas. In the U.S., the 3-D toon placed No. 2 for the weekend, dipping 36% to an estimated $17.7 million for a cume of $152 million. That brings worldwide ticket sales to $581 million.

Toon is now the highest-grossing film of all time in a number of Central American and South American markets, as well as in Russia.

That there was room for “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” wasn’t surprising: As it has aged, the “Potter” franchise has grown darker in theme, while the latest “Ice Age” sequel is a family film appropriate for younger tots.

The $159.7 million domestic five-day on “Half Blood Prince” improved on the $139.7 million “Order of the Phoenix” took in its five-day opening two years ago.

Warner Bros. prexy of distribution Dan Fellman said he expected “Half-Blood Prince” to cross the $200 million mark domestically by Wednesday morning.

“Half-Blood Prince” opened last Wednesday, posting a record-breaking $22.2 million in midnight runs on the way to grossing $80.2 million through Thursday. For the weekend, it grossed $79.5 million.

“Alan is the guy who deserves the credit. When he came to Warners, the project hadn’t been put through development. He stepped up to the plate, and insisted that we stick to the books,” Fellman said.

As with the domestic aud, Warners prexy of international distribution Veronika Kwan-Rubinek said the core demo is aging as the characters in the films mature.

“It’s really a testament to the global appeal of J.K. Rowling,” Kwan-Rubinek said.

“Half-Blood Prince” also marked the biggest international opener of all time for Imax, which opened the film in 62 locations. Grosses clocked in at $3.6 million.

Film’s foreign opening bested titan franchises “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Spider-Man” and “Star Wars.” It also came in well ahead of “Order of the Phoenix,” which opened to $193 million.

The U.K. led, of course, with $32.4 million, the second biggest opening of all time in Blighty after “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Pic also scored the second-best opening ever in Australia ($14.4 million) and Brazil ($8 million). After the U.K., top-grossing markets were Germany ($23 million), France ($20.2 million), Japan ($18.2 million), Italy ($13.2 million) and Spain ($10 million).

“Half-Blood Prince” cost $235 million to produce. Film was directed by David Yates, who is helming the two final “Potter” pics as well.

Meanwhile, Warners also had something else to crow about: “The Hangover” ended the weekend with a domestic cume of $235.9 million, the highest ever for an R-rated comedy, unseating “Beverly Hills Cop” after a 25-year rule with $234.8 million. (See story, page 5.) Laffer’s international cume through Sunday was $84.2 million for a boffo worldwide total of $320.1 million.

Paramount also had reason to celebrate thanks to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The sequel grossed $13.8 million from 3,857 theaters for a domestic cume of $363.9 million, making it the highest domestic grosser since “The Dark Knight” ($533.3 million).

Overseas, “Revenge of the Fallen” all but crossed the $400 million mark in grossing $15.3 million from 8,317 locations in 63 territories for a foreign cume of $398 million and a dazzling worldwide total of $761.9 million.

In the specialty arena, Searchlight’s “500 Days of Summer” did the best business of the year among limited releases at the domestic B.O. Directed by Marc Webb and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, the film preemed at this year’s Sundance. Pic placed No. 13 for the weekend.

Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker” continued to show strength as it expanded, grossing $764,000 in its fourth sesh for a cume of $2.2 million and per-location average of $8,128.

Intl. Film Circuit’s “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” grossed $35,287 from four locations in its soph sesh for a per-theater average of $9,321. Company’s doc “The Way We Get By” debuted to $7,154 from one location.

Screen Media Films’ “Death in Love” opened to $16,000 from four locations for a per-engagement average of $4,000.

Sony held sneaks Friday of its romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth,” which opens this week, and noted that many shows were sold out.

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