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‘Potter’ pic charms box office

'Half-Blood Prince' full-bodied with $22.2 mil

Those who grew up on Hogwarts’ most famous boy wizard may have gotten older — millions are now young adults — but they appear to have lost none of their loyalty to Harry Potter.

The public — and Hollywood — are used to the long lines outside moviehouses and bookstores whenever a “Harry Potter” film or novel is released, but no one expected the massive box office start for Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Pic, the sixth installment, grossed a record-breaking $22.2 million in midnight releases unspooling in 3,003 theaters at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. That more than beat the $18 million midnight record set last summer by Warners’ “The Dark Knight.”

Pent-up demand could be playing a factor in the film’s early success. The last, and final, book, in J.K. Rowling’s series was published around the time that “Order of the Phoenix” was released, meaning two years have passed without a Harry Potter sighting.

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An older fanbase could be part of the reason why the midnight shows were so strong.

Kids who were learning to read when the first book came out are in 1997 are older teens now, a ripe aud for midnight showings.

There’s always been an adult fanbase too, but parents with younger kids gravitate to daytime dates.

“Half-Blood Prince” has another ace up its magician’s sleeve when it comes to family fare: While the last two pics earned a PG-13 because of darker themes, “Half-Blood Prince” was awarded the more friendly PG rating, easing parents’ concern about whether to take younger tots. (Warners said it didn’t ask for the rating and assumed it would get a PG-13 classification.)

Most box office forecasters were predicting “Half-Blood Prince” would post a five-day domestic opening of $125 million to $150 million, but some are amending that number upward, based on the midnight gross.

Earlier this summer, Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” also opening on a Wednesday, grossed $16 million in midnight runs on its way to a five-day opening of $200.1 million. The sequel grossed $109 million Friday-Sunday.

“Half-Blood Prince” is already off to a stronger start than the last film in the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which opened on the same Wednesday two years ago. “Order of the Phoenix” grossed $12 million in midnight runs, still an impressive number, on its way to posting a five-day cume of $139.7 million.

Film is opening day-and-date in every major overeas territory. “Harry Potter” films have been even more successful overseas, and no one’s willing to handicap how high “Half-Blood Price” will go in foreign realms. “Order of the Phoenix” grossed $646.2 million internationally and $292 million domestically.

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