×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

B.O., auds welcome back ‘Potter’

Pic to make 2nd-highest bow of all time on 3,855 screens

This article was updated at 9:31 p.m.

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” will seek to cast another spell on the box office this weekend, mounting the first big challenge to ticket monster “Shrek 2.”

Warner Bros. is releasing the third in its wizard series on 3,855 screens, the second-highest bow of all time following “Shrek 2’s” 4,163.

This “Potter” pic is the first to get a summer release. The first two both saw stellar success launching in the second week of November. In 2001, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” grossed $90.3 million in its first three days. A year later, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” posted $88.4 million in its opening weekend.

Moving the pic to the summer season has a clear advantage: Nearly half of all schools in the U.S. will be out for summer vacation this weekend. Last weekend, only about a third of elementary and high schools had closed.

“I would anticipate that the mid-weeks should be very strong for ‘Harry’ considering in November, kids were in school,” says Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman.

But the summer season means stiffer competition for aud attention.

DreamWorks has programmed “Shrek 2” to maximize its box office before “Potter” enters the picture — the Wednesday cume of $271.5 million for “Shrek 2” officially passed the original’s total run of $267.7 million.

Of “Potter’s bow,” DreamWorks distrib prexy Jim Tharp said, “I think it’s a direct hit on our core audience.”

Because the Memorial Day holiday meant better Sunday grosses, “Shrek” will likely drop more than 50%, as will 20th Century Fox’s “The Day After Tomorrow.” Those sorts of drops would put the pics in the low- to mid-30s.

With or without the green ogre, Warners has had to face the tricky task of keeping the “Potter” franchise alive. It’s been six years since the first “Potter” book was published and three years since the first film — an eternity in the notoriously fickle children’s entertainment arena.

“We have seen an evolution of the core,” said Diane Nelson, Warners exec VP for global brand management. “The kids who were 10, 11 when the first film came out are now 13, 14 and 15.”

Reviews of the latest “Potter” have frequently labeled it “darker” than the previous two, but Nelson said there has not been a conscious effort to “age up” the franchise.

“We have worked very hard in all of our businesses, including the execution of the movie and the marketing campaign, to stay true to representing the stories which are evolving as the characters grow and move through Hogwarts,” she said.

The “Potter” phenomenon, she added, has not tapered off. “As younger kids enter the franchise, either through books, movies or DVDs, we’re not seeing the older kids drop out because it seems uncool, which is the normal trend with these kinds of franchises.”

Also opening this weekend is “Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut,” the cult pic helmed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Newmarket is reissuing an extended version of the pic on seven screens in Seattle in what amounts to a test run. Pic will be released nationally next month, but the pattern will depend on the Seattle perfs.

In other limited releases, Thinkfilm bows “The Story of the Weeping Camel” on two screens in Gotham and Zeitgeist brings “The Corporation” to two screens in San Francisco.

More Film

  • Zach Galifianakis Jerry Seinfeld Netflix

    Film News Roundup: Zach Galifianakis' 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie' Coming to Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is unveiled, “Friedkin Uncut” gets a fall release and Sony Classics buys “The Traitor” at Cannes. MOVIE RELEASES Netflix has set a Sept. 20 release date for Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” based on his 11-year-old talk show. Galifianakis made the announcement during [...]

  • Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for

    Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for North America

    Magnolia Pictures has bought North American rights to the Romanian crime thriller “The Whistlers” following its premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, the film stars Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szonyi and George Pisterneanu. Magnolia is eyeing a theatrical [...]

  • Naomi Scott Talks Rebooting Princess Jasmine

    'Aladdin': Naomi Scott on Why Her Princess Jasmine Needed Nasim Pedrad's New Character

    Call Naomi Scott the queen of the reboot – or at least, the princess. The 26-year-old actress is taking on the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but it’s not her first time jumping into a role that’s already been well-established. Audiences may recognize Scott from 2017’s “Power Rangers” update, where [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • A QUIET PLACE Emily Blunt

    'A Quiet Place' Sequel Moves Ahead Two Months to March 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved its sequel to “A Quiet Place” ahead by two months from May 15 to March 20, 2020. John Krasinski is returning to direct the still-untitled movie with Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprising their roles. Cillian Murphy is joining the cast. “A Quiet Place” grossed $340 million at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content