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

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 17, 2011 at 5:19AM

And so we have box office history.
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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.)

This article is related to: Films, Film Studios, Super 8, Larry Crowne, Animated Films, The Zookeeper, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses, Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, Midnight In Paris, Tabloid, Undefeated, Universal, Warner Bros, Pixar , Sony, Sony Pictures Classics , Paramount, Winnie The Pooh, Cars 2


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