Warner Bros. sequel reigns at box office

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” grossed a magical $21.9 million in is second day of play at the domestic box office for a princely cume of $80.1 million.

Thursday’s domestic grosses lifted the film’s worldwide tally to $125.9 in just 48 hours, and that’s before Thursday’s international numbers are factored in.

On Wednesday, “Half-Blood Prince” opened to a potent $58.2 million domestically and $45.9 million internationally for a total tally of $104 million — the best start ever for the franchise. It also the best opening day ever for a Wednesday release, as well as the fourth best for any day of the week.

No other studio dared open a big title this weekend, although a handful of specialty pics open at the domestic B.O. in a counterprogramming maneuver.

Titles include Fox Searchlight’s offbeat comedy “500 Days of Summer,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Directed by Marc Webb, pic preemed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will go out in 27 theaters.

Boaz Yakin’s drama “Death in Love” is likewise skedded to open in limited markets. Distributed by Screen Media Films, the film stars Jacqueline Bisset, Josh Lucas, Lukas Haas and Adam Brody.

“Half-Blood Prince” and “500 Days of Summer” arrive with a collection of positive reviews. Directed by David Yates, “Half-Blood Prince” has received the best reviews of the six “Potter” pics.

The 8-year-old franchise doesn’t seem to be showing any wear either domestically or overseas. In the U.S., the film grossed $22.2 million in midnight runs, the most ever for a latenight release.

Domestic theater count for “Half-Blood Prince” is 4,275 heading into the weekend. Pic’s debut was slightly more staggered overseas. On Wednesday, the film opened on 10,500 screens in 33 markets. It moved into more territories on Thursday, and this weekend, it will be playing on roughly 15,000 screens in 64 markets.

The “Potter” franchise has always been big overseas, with the films pulling in even more coin internationally than domestically. “Half-Blood Prince” posted boffo results in its first round of territories, including scoring the third-highest opening day of all time in the U.K. ($7.6 million from 1,305 screens), the second highest in Italy ($4 million from 923) and the third highest in Australia ($4.4 million from 484).

In Holland, it posted the biggest opening of all time at $1.3 million.

“With many countries yet to open, these already outstanding box office numbers are another testament to the universal appeal of J.K. Rowling’s stories and the work of everyone behind the ‘Harry Potter’ films,” said Warners prexy of intl. distribution Veronika Kwan-Rubinek.

Domestically, opening-day numbers suggest “Half-Blood Prince” is on course to at least match the $139.7 million five-day opening of the last film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

“Order of the Phoenix,” debuting on the same Wednesday in July 2007, grossed $44 million, well below the $58.2 million earned by “Half-Blood Prince.”

Some fans were upset last year when Warners decided to push back the release of “Half-Blood Prince” from last November to this month. If any ill will resulted from the studio’s decision, it seems to have been forgotten.

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