'Harry' expected to become top grossing franchise

With the midnight bow of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter” film franchise is poised to become the most magical of all time — at least in dollars and cents.

The five previous “Harry Potter” pics have grossed $4.48 billion at the worldwide box office. That still trails the roughly $5 billion grossed by the James Bond film franchise (not accounting for inflation), but the boy wizard is expected to overtake agent 007 within the month.

The largest chunk of the franchise’s total gross has come from overseas, where J.K. Rowling’s book series has been translated into 67 languages.

“Half-Blood Prince” was originally set to open last November, but the studio pushed back the release. The postponement sparked an outcry from Potter fans that has morphed into pent-up demand around the world.

“Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth installment in the franchise, goes out in approximately 4,300 theaters domestically and thousands more overseas in 64 territories, including every major market.

On Monday, MovieTickets.com reported 300 sold-out shows for “Half-Blood Prince” at the domestic B.O., including more than 950 midnight showings. That’s more than the presales for this summer’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

Online ticketing service Fandango reported that “Half-Blood Prince” is the fastest seller of the year and the biggest of any Potter title.

“Order of the Phoenix,” released two years ago nearly to the day, grossed $44 million on its first day at the domestic B.O., including $12 million in midnight shows. Film’s five-day opening gross was $139.7 million on its way to cuming $292 million domestically and $646 million overseas.

Film marks the second Potter outing for helmer David Yates, who directed “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” He’s also set to helm the final two films in the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.”

The main cast returns in “Half-Blood Prince,” while Jim Broadbent joins the franchise in the role of Professor Horace Slughorn.

Warners feels the July 15 release date for “Half-Blood Prince” gives it ideal positioning.

The freshest holdover is 20th Century Fox’s 3-D toon “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which heads into its third weekend. “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” plays younger than a Potter pic, so it may not take much of a hit.

Because Imax was obligated to play “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” for at least two more weeks, “Half-Blood Prince” will only open in a handful of Imax theaters, including ones in L.A., New York and Chicago. Yates shot 15 minutes of the film using Imax cameras. Footage will be shown in Imax 3-D.

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