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Weekend Box Office: Boy Wizard Trumps Batman As 'Deathly Hallows Pt. 2' Has All-Time Biggest Opening

by Gabe Toro
July 17, 2011 5:19 AM
8 Comments
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And so we have box office history.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two” has thus generated more excitement in its opening three days than any film in history. Most of it was due to the strength of a $92 million Friday, an accomplishment that handily trumps the $72 million opening day of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” 'Potter' easily unseats “The Dark Knight,” which originally scored the highest three-day opening at $158 million, and has therefore raised the bar on what a major tentpole blockbuster can accomplish. Your move, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

As expected, the film was heavily frontloaded, with an eye-popping (and, of course, record-breaking) $43 million from midnight screenings alone -- that is a LOT of unemployed people. As such, Pottermania significantly course-corrected as it could not register the biggest Saturday haul in box office history, a record still in the hands of “Spider-Man 3.” But it really is all gravy at this point, isn’t it?

Within slightly over a day, 'Deathly Hallows: Part Two' pulverized the last biggest 'Potter' opening weekend, which stood at $125 million. But lest we forget, the 'Potter' fanbase is large and has gathered steam as the years went past. The only reason the grosses didn’t improve over the last few films is because the normals were not motivated to sit through a part five or six when they knew the series would end with a part seven (or, in this case, eight). Marking the end in advance is convenient for the diehard fans, but it can test the attention span of the uninitiated who would otherwise enjoy something as broadly commercial as the 'Potter' series.

Moreover, this was in enhanced-price 3D, and advertised as not just a movie, but an event. In a bit if circular momentum, anticipation for the final film (stoked by a heavy duty ad campaign and regular re-airings of the original films) led to increased DVD sales for previous films, letting the uninitiated gain a foothold on the mythology before taking the dive with part eight. And as far as the diehards, there’s an entire generation that was literally raised by these books and movies -- for all intents and purposes, it’s the ultimate franchise.

It’s bittersweet for Warner Bros., of course, as a franchise pulling in its biggest grosses in the final installment suggests there’s still plenty of life in the brand name. While they’ll keep pumping out 'Potter' merchandise, there are no more books or movies to mine. They’re also losing roughly $900 million in theatrical receipts per year, a sweet annual insurance plan that allowed for the WB to take more risks than the average studio. They’re hoping to fill that void with superhero movies, with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Man of Steel” coming next year, but “Green Lantern” proved that plan was not foolproof, as that film hasn’t even approached $200 million globally. This logic should prove faulty, as superhero films are bound to be more expensive than the continued adventures at Hogwarts.

Of course, there’s always the idea that they can reboot. Excising a lot of smaller plot details, a more focused trilogy of 'Potter' films made by filmmakers given free reign (or a close approximation) could finally reach for the Oscar gold the initial films failed to achieve. They may have to wait a decade or so before revisiting the story, but $890 million global for “Spider-Man 3” didn’t stop Sony from starting fresh with a new cast and creative team for “The Amazing Spider-Man.” May we suggest “Black Harry Potter,” with a cast of professors made up of Richard Roundtree, Sidney Poitier, Pam Grier and Cornel West? That one’s for free, Warners.

Continuing to perform was “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which crossed the $300 million domestic number this weekend. By next weekend, it should outgross the first film in the series, but it’s gonna need the Matrix Of Leadership in order to match the second film’s $402 million domestic gross. Those inflated 3D numbers are really helping these pictures internationally, however, as the film should pass $800 million global at midweek. This is a victory for no one, as millions of people worldwide continue to enable Michael Bay.

Horrible Bosses” stood its ground, holding remarkably well in weekend two and solidifying its status as another of the summer’s R-rated comedy hits. Producer Brett Ratner (yes, he’s still around) has suggested that a sequel is a strong possibility, but that would be one pricey cast for a sequel to be anything but a potential money-loser. The R-rated comedy has handily outperformed the family-oriented “Zookeeper,” which has still managed semi-respectable numbers but is registering with the public like a fart in the wind.

Cars 2” looks spent, with a likely $180 million final gross. While those are decent numbers for a CG-toon, and merchandise should assist Disney in reaffirming marketplace superiority in the toy aisle, it’s significantly lower than the first film’s non-3D gross. Considering the surcharge and inflation, “Cars 2” is actually the least-attended of all previous Pixar films, which includes “A Bug’s Life,” the studio’s lowest domestic performer at $162 million back in 1998. Overseas, the news is significantly rosier, as the film has performed admirably in other countries, but critical reception (more important to Pixar than other studios) suggests “Cars 3” may not actually happen. Especially after recent hits like “Despicable Me” and “Rio” came at a severe discount compared to Pixar’s offerings.

The news wasn’t so pleasant for Disney’s feeble attempt at counter programming Pottermania, “Winnie the Pooh.” The midbudget toon was thrown to the wolves on slightly more than 2,000 screens with a low-key ad campaign, but the kids were seeing the boy wizard instead. 'Pooh' registered an opening that isn’t terrible compared to its cost and low profile, but what is this movie doing coming out on the same weekend as 'Harry Potter'? “Bad Teacher” continues to play, threatening $100 million, while “Larry Crowne” and “Super 8” are finishing up their runs. Check the numbers at the bottom. One is a hit, one is not. Take a guess.

Domestically, “Midnight in Paris” hit a major milestone, becoming Woody Allen’s most successful domestic release in history. There’s no doubt the film has connected with the general public in a way Allen’s efforts of the last decade or so haven’t, but this number doesn’t take inflation into account, where some of Allen’s more pivotal works likely rule the roost. No matter, as this proves Allen can still work on a minor hitmaking mode, and it bodes well for the increased profile of his next few films. Sony Pictures Classics played this one exactly right.

Probably not wise to release a film called "The Undefeated" in 10 markets on the same weekend 'Harry Potter' is averaging $38k per location, but when have Sarah Palin and her handlers ever bowed to common sense? Her propadoc averaged about $6.5k per screen, though distributors ARC Entertainment refused to disclose full numbers, suggesting there may have been some movement on Sunday, or that, well, you know -- the evil left-wing media will spin those numbers, dontcha know? The weeks' biggest indie release was Oscar winner Errol Morris' "Tabloid," somehow a more respectable and attractive choice for theatergoers at 14 locations, scoring a $101k weekend.

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" had the biggest overall indie debut, but grabbing $126k on 24 screens suggests significantly less excitement than the previous two indies. Doc "Life Above All" registered a feeble opening, grossing $14k on five screens, failing to surpass some high profile holdovers. Most prominent among those was "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" which collected $142k in its second weekend on 22 screens. Support your local arthouse theater.

1. Harry Potter And The Embarrassingly Long Lines People Waited On To See Him (WB) - $168.6 million
2. Transformers: This Is The Alternative? (Paramount) - $21.3 million ($303 mil.)
3. Horrible Bosses (WB) - $17.6 million ($60 mil.)
4. Zookeeper (Sony) - $12.3 million ($42 mil.)
5. Cars 2, People 0 (Disney) - $8.3 million ($165 mil.)
6. Winnie the Pooh (Disney) - $8 million
7. Bad Teacher (Sony) - $5.2 million ($89 mil.)
8. Oscar Winners On Mopeds (Universal) - $2.6 million ($32 mil.)
9. Super 8 (Paramount) - $1.9 million ($122 mil.)
10. Midnight in Paris (Sony) - $1.9 million ($42 mil.)

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8 Comments

  • Wren | July 18, 2011 10:08 AMReply

    You're either a total idiot or an unfunny dick.

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.

  • Gabe Toro | July 18, 2011 1:41 AMReply

    I never said anything about the unemployed per se. But you just called them "dysfunctional losers."

    I WIN.

  • Wren | July 17, 2011 12:58 PMReply

    Just because you can't function at work for a single day at the end of the week on 3-4 hours' sleep doesn't mean the same is true of everyone. Furthermore, "unemployed" has a negative connotation that you use to patronize people who go to the screenings - you're not saying it to suggest that a lot of college students were going to see the film at midnight, because if that were the case, you would've just said "a LOT of college students." You used "unemployed" to suggest it was a bunch of dysfunctional losers who attended the midnight screenings on Thursday, which makes you an elitist asshole.

  • Gabe Toro | July 17, 2011 11:34 AMReply

    God forbid that we say a lot of people going to Thursday midnight shows are unemployed. Because that isn't the case at all, obviously.

  • Wren | July 17, 2011 11:12 AMReply

    "- that is a LOT of unemployed people."

    ^ That is WHY The Playlist is often accused of being a collection of elitist assholes.

  • cirkusfolk | July 17, 2011 8:27 AMReply

    Well it seems Potter didn't make as much as I thought it would after that outrageous 92 mil opening day. 168 mil is only 10 more mil than Dark Knight did (without 3D prices mind you), so I think it's a fair bet to say The Dark Knight Rises can take the record back next summer. You can expect fanboys to see it multiple times to get the record back because let's not forget, these are the same people that gave The Godfather a rating of 1 on IMDB just to try to unseat it from the number 1 ranking and move Dark Knight in its place, but only managed to move Shawshank up to number 1 in the process. Of course, now Dark knight sits at number 10, right behind Nolan's most recent picture, Inception, at number 9. But Godfather is still number 2 though.

  • Glass | July 17, 2011 7:37 AMReply

    That would be hilarious if they had a Harry Potter reboot in the works for a 2015 release.

  • hmm | July 17, 2011 6:27 AMReply

    Bay rules.

    Playlist drools.

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