Seventh 'Potter' pic opens with boffo $330 mil worldwide

Despite forfeiting the magic of 3D, Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ still conjured a massive worldwide tally, debuting with an estimated $330.1 million.

Pic’s domestic take was $125.1 million from 4,125 locations, while international figures totaled a staggering $205 million from 91 markets on 19,000 screens.

“Hallows” out­stripped by 23% the franchise’s previous top domestic opener, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” which tallied $102.7 million when it launched November 2005.

Both pics went out in 2D screens only.

And while Warners ultimately decided to forgo its 3D treatment of “Hallows,” the penultimate Potter pic received an additional boost from 239 domestic Imax locations, contributing an estimated $12.4 million over the weekend.

That makes “Hallows” the company’s biggest opener to date, surpassing Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,” with $12.1 million from Imax earlier this year.

Worldwide Imax figures for “Hallows” reached $16.6 million from 340 total runs; “Alice” also held Imax’s previous global record with $15.3 million.

Also opening wide over the weekend, Lionsgate’s Russell Crowe starrer “The Next Three Days” bowed below expectations with an estimated $6.8 million from 2,564 engagements.

Lionsgate positioned the pic for a potential counterprogramming bid, targeting a mostly adult demo. “Hallows,” however, charmed all quadrants, given that its aud has grown up with the franchise. Warners said 10% of moviegoers for the first “Harry Potter” were ages 18-34, while that demo repped 25% of the “Hallows” aud.

“Parents would take their kids, put them in the back seat and drive them to the matinee to watch ‘Harry Potter,’ ” said Warners prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman. “Now that same 10-year-old is driving to the midnight showings.”

Warners kicked off the film’s domestic outing with $24 million in Thursday midnight grosses, added to Friday’s $61.2 million take. Despite the non-holiday, non-summer berth, pic managed to outpace the sixth Potter film’s $22.2 million in latenight figures; “Half-Blood Prince” launched on a Wednesday last year the week following Fourth of July.

The pre-Thanksgiving launchpad — plus an A CinemaScore rating — positions “Hallows” for a solid second weekend, with adult auds looking to avoid the opening weekend rush.

Though international territories won’t see a holiday boost next weekend, the film’s top-ranking bows set the bar high in some markets, including Australia, Italy and the U.K., where “Hallows” became the biggest three-day opener ever with an estimated $28 million. In Oz, pic took an estimated $14.8 million, the territory’s second highest-grossing weekend, while Italian auds shelled out the most coin for a “Potter” opening with $11.5 million.

The loss of 3D likely stung the most internationally, as the overseas 3D screen count has nearly quadrupled over the past year. Added 3D box office varies on tickets sold and admission prices for family films, but according to most B.O. pundits, the format helps to spike overall grosses by an average of 10%.

The record-breaking Imax take is particularly noteworthy given the pic’s 2D-only status. Imax prexy Greg Foster said the company has a long-standing tradition with the franchise, having screened all but the first two “Potter” films. “It’s extra nice to have it happen with a film like ‘Harry Potter,'” Foster said, referring to the weekend benchmark.

As the series winds down, Warners’ Fellman credited inaugural helmer Chris Columbus, as well as studio topper Alan Horn, for shepherding the $5.4 billion franchise from the beginning. “He made the decision on how to go forward,” Fellman said of Horn’s early involvement.

Warners decided to split J.K. Rowlings’ final installment into a two-part finale, which ekes out extra coin and allows for more material from the 700-plus page book. “Hallows: Part 2″ launches in 3D next summer.

Lionsgate’s “The Next Three Days” played overwhelmingly to moviegoers over 25, which accounted for 83% of its aud. Females, accounting for 55%, likely were drawn to star Crowe, who toplines as a husband pushed to his limits to save his recently imprisoned wife.

Lionsgate distrib topper David Spitz credited the film’s B+ aud appraisal as a hopeful sign of strong playability in repeat frames. “That was one of the reasons why we were so bullish on the film,” Spitz said. “And the hope is with an older audience, you’ll see great moviegoing business going into the Thanksgiving weekend.”

In recent weeks, older-skewing pics like “Red” and Warners’ R-rated “Due Date,” which dropped just 41% in its third frame, have held well with adult auds. Even specialty titles including Summit’s No. 10-ranked “Fair Game” have gained aud awareness. “Next Three Days,” however, will have a tougher time making up ground given its sluggish start.

“Red” added an estimated $2.5 million to its $83.6 million cume, while “Due Date” took an estimated $9.2 million with $72.7 million so far. Domestic totals for “Fair Game” reached $3.7 million, after Summit expanded the pic this weekend to 386 locations for an estimated $1.5 million.

Entering its third frame, Paramount and DreamWorks Animations’ 3D toon “Megamind” dropped to No. 2 with an estimated weekend take of $16.2 million, down 44%; cume is $109.5 million. Par dodged a bullet when “Hallows” was withdrawn from the 3D playing field, leaving it three weeks before the next 3D entry, Disney’s “Tangled.”

Other top 10 holdovers included soph-sesh entries “Unstoppable,” “Morning Glory” and “Skyline.”

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Unstoppable” saw a decent hold with older males, dropping 42% and grossing an estimated $13.1 million, while Par’s “Morning Glory” continued to entice its fair share of femmes, with a weekend take of $5.2 million, down 43%. “Skyline” fell 71%, with the Rogue Pictures-Relativity Media pic taking in $3.4 million.

“Unstoppable” has totaled $42 million through the weekend, while “Morning Glory” has tallied nearly $20 million. Domestic totals for “Skyline” reached $17.6 million.

Top specialty titles included Sony Pictures Classics’ Brit pic “Made in Dagenham,” which averaged $13,704 on three debut locations, as well as Fox Searchlight’s “127 Hours,” expanding to 108 for a per-screen average of $8,474. Domestic totals for “127 Hours” will cross $2 million this week.

Meanwhile, IFC banked “White Material” and “Tiny Furniture,” with the latter grossing a steady $15,200 from one New York location. “White Material” debuted at three locations in New York and Chicago with an estimated weekend take of $36,300 and a $12,100 per screen average.

Warners’ “Hallows” commandeered most overseas plexes, leaving little room for holdover titles.

Fox’s “Unstoppable” tallied an estimated $7.5 million from 41 territories; international cume is $32 million. Pic was No. 2 in Spain behind “Hallows,” with an estimated $1 million, while France, which will get the “Potter” pic this week, contributed slightly more for “Unstoppable.”

In China, Sony’s “Resident Evil: Afterlife” bowed neck-and-neck with “Hallows,” with a slight edge for the former. “Afterlife” grossed an estimated $9.4 million, boosted by higher 3D ticket prices, while 2D “Hallows” took in an estimated $9 million. Warners said it will have revised Chinese totals today.

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