Penultimate pic rolls out on 19,000 screens

Moviegoers worldwide succumbed to Potter-mania as Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ scored a series best, with $205 million from 91 markets at 19,000 locations over the Nov. 19-21 weekend.

Including $125 million in domestic B.O. receipts, the penultimate Potter pic tallied a massive $330 million total worldwide during its day-and-date premiere sesh, making it the biggest “Potter” three-day opening. Last year, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opened Wednesday in virtually every foreign market for five-day totals of $236 million, benefiting from summer holidays.

Prexy of international distribution for Warners Veronika Kwan-Rubinek credits her distribution team for handling such a sizable rollout. “With a movie of the magnitude of ‘Harry Potter,’ … every single person put their all into maximizing the international launch,” she adds.

Warners has lengthened its international footprint with each Potter installment, with one of the widest ever day-and-date bows for “Hallows.” The studio decided to hold the film back in only a few major markets, notably France, which opened Nov. 24.

Along with its worldwide benchmark, “Hallows” set several overseas records in individual markets, such as the U.K., where it became the biggest three-day weekend opener, with $29.4 million. “Hallows” also surpassed its series predecessors in Australia and Russia, opening with $14.8 million and $12.9 million, respectively.

In Blighty, the pic occupied a staggering 1,852 locations, while its Russian count reached 1,133, and 610 in Oz.

Warners blanketed local media to promote the pic, including a 13-city press tour throughout Europe with 10 cast members. For instance, the studio designed a dimensional build-out positioned along one of the busiest routes from London to Heathrow Airport.

The pic’s 2D-only switch didn’t affect Warners’ marketing strategies, according to Sue Kroll, prexy of worldwide marketing for Warners.

“?’Harry Potter’ comes with such expectations that you have to borrow the familiar, but at the same time, reinvent the campaign to keep it new,” Kroll notes. “The connection, making something feel like it’s part of your culture, is a really important thing with marketing.”

As part of its marketing scheme, Kroll says “strategies were a bit more nuanced in certain territories.” In Japan, the campaign focused on the film’s emotional component aimed largely at the dominant femme aud. The strategy ultimately paid off, with Japanese auds shelling out a hearty $14 million at 885 locations.

Elsewhere in Asia, “Hallows” scored high marks at the Chinese B.O., with $10.6 million, enough to give it an edge over Sony opener “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” which debuted there with $9 million during its first six days of release. “Hallows” became Warners’ all-time highest-grossing debut in China, beating the studio’s summer hit “Inception.”

“We work closely with China Film to ensure that the materials are received in time and placed appropriately and that the films are given the best possible launch environment,” Kwan-Rubinek says of the restrictive market.

Other notable territories for “Hallows” were Germany, Italy and Mexico, where it easily topped the frame in all three markets, but opened behind “Half-Blood Prince,” with $10.2 million, in Mexico. German auds contributed an impressive $22.6 million, while family auds in Italy paid $11 million, despite some local critics warning, “Children, abstain!” because of the pic’s darker themes.

“We’ll see how it plays out in the coming weeks,” Kwan-Rubinek says. “But we have enjoyed long runs in the past, and the audience feedback has been extremely positive so far.”

Emilio Mayorga in Barcelona, Mark Schilling in Tokyo, Clifford Coonan in Beijing, Andrew Horn in Berlin, David Hayhurst in Paris and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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