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Weekend Box Office: Harry Potter 8 Beats The Dark Knight's Opening Weekend Record UPDATED

by Anthony D'Alessandro
July 17, 2011 4:01 AM
4 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 smashed opening weekend records as moviegoers flocked to the ultimate event movie, the last in Warner Bros.' beloved eight-film series based on J.K. Rowling's global literary phenomenon. (See Richard Corliss's fine summation in Time.) Anthony D'Alessandro reports.


No woe in the world -- neither national debt nor the closure of the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles -- crimped U.S. moviegoers from seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this weekend as they made the final film based on J.K. Rowling’s book series the biggest domestic opening of all-time at $168.55 million, ripping the wings off of Dark Knight’s $158.4 million – a record the Christopher Nolan Batman film has held over the past three years.

From the onset, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was going to clean up. It broke the midnight record for a domestic bow with $43.5 million (former champ The Twilight Saga: Eclipse at $30 million), the single stateside opening day with $92.1 million (besting Twilight Saga: New Moon’s $72.7 million), the biggest IMAX bow with $15.5 million (beating Alice in Wonderland’s $12 million) and the largest three-day haul for a Harry Potter film, out-pegging last November’s Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which rang up $125 million.

These are jaw-dropping figures, which continue to underscore the age-old axiom that moviegoing is recession-proof. With the jobless rate hovering above 9% in the U.S., a similar level when Avatar unspooled in late 2009, it just goes to show that audiences spare no expense when it comes to an event film – even if it’s in 3-D. Though 2-D ruled the majority of grosses at 57% or $96.1 million, 3-D made up 43% with a notable $72.5 million. Cinemascore reports a solid A, with the majority of the crowd comprised of female fans at 54%, who scored it an A+. Males repped 46%.

As predicted, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 charted the best global bow of all-time at $475.55 million, oustripping the Half-Blood Prince's $394 million global bow and Transformers: Dark of the Moon $40-million week long run. The foreign break-out was $307 million from 20,000 screens across 59 countries, a figure that easily bested Pirates 4's $260.4 million international launch earlier this summer. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 became the all-time weekend opener in the U.K. with $36.6 million and Australia where it counted $26.7 million. In Italy, where U.S. films typically face an uphill battle due to local product and cinema closures during the summer, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 repped the best bow for a U.S. film at $15.1 million. Russia saw a Warner Bros. record with $19.5 million.

Although Warner Bros. did a strong promo job including a visceral print/outdoor campaign entitled “It All Ends” – it really didn’t matter because Potter fans were going to show up anyway. Why? The film’s finale marked the end of childhood for those over-25 fans, who dominated showings at 55%.

But like Star Wars and Star Trek, Harry Potter-mania is destined to live-on through fan confabs, the Universal Studios Florida attraction (which has pulled in 7 million to date), inspirational literary works at fanfiction.net and Rowling’s Pottermore site.

Deathly Hallows: Part 2 charted a whopping theater average of $38,526. Drilling down into the numbers, it wasn’t simply about being the widest Potter release of all time with 4,375 venues (68% which were 3-D and 274 IMAX), rather the volume of showtimes at each theater.  While it’s not unusual for a new release to have an hourly showtime at city multiplexes, AMC's Empire 25 in New York at one point was touting 42 showings of Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in one day. Even smaller markets like the Regal Hollywood 20 in Naples, Florida were projecting the film 30 times in both 3-D and 2-D.
 
“Exhibitors realized the enormity of our advance sales and that Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was a monster in the works.  They did everything to maximize the gross,” pointed out Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman on how distributors typically negotiate screens, not the number of showtimes with exhibitors. “The film played well in big cities, red and blue states – our largest gross in the U.S. over two days came out of Salt Lake City,” said Fellman on Deathly Hallows: Part 2’s wide reach. The 405 highway closure in Los Angeles didn’t seem to impact any turnstile clicks.
 
Elsewhere at the box office, Winnie the Pooh grabbed what it could of the under-tween crowd, making $8 million at 2,405 venues, in sixth place. Disney was expecting to gross in the $6-7 million range based on the performance of previous Pooh pics, i.e. The Heffalump Movie ($5.8 million).  Even with Harry Potter in the market, Disney sees Winnie the Pooh as an evergreen destination for families and grandparents during the summer, given the season's robust daily business. While Disney has amassed fortunes in the past by taking some toons originally destined for direct-to-video straight to theatrical, Winnie the Pooh was always intended for the big screen.
 
Some titles playing against Harry Potter stayed alive and kicking.  Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris finally beat Hannah and Her Sisters to become his highest-grossing film in North America.  (See indieWIRE box office report here.) Last weekend’s releases Horrible Bosses and Zookeeper registered dips that were under 40%. Wayne Wang’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan vied for Chinese American crowds drawing $135,619 from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Vancouver and Toronto.  The film, produced by Hollywood wives Florence Sloan and Wendi Murdoch (whose husband Rupert arranged for the film to be released by Fox Searchlight), played strongly in specialty theaters like the Landmark Los Angeles among older adults who are familiar with the book, despite negative reviews.

Weekend Top Ten Box Office Chart:


1.    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 $168.55 million in its first weekend at 4,375 theaters. $38,526 theater average. Domestic total: $168.55 million.
2.    Transformers: Dark of the Moon $21.25 million down 55% in its third weekend at 3,917 theaters. $5,425 theater average. Domestic total: $302.8 million.
3.    Horrible Bosses (WB/New Line) $17.6 million down 38% in its second weekend at 3,134 theaters. $5,625 theater average. Domestic total: $60 million.
4.    Zookeeper (Sony) $12.3 million down 39% in its second weekend at 3,482 theaters. $3,532 theater average. Domestic total: $42.4 million.
5.    Car 2 (Disney) $8.34 million down 45% in its fourth weekend at 3,249 theaters. $2,568 theater average.  Domestic total: $165.3 million.
6.    Winnie the Pooh $8 million in its first weekend at 2,405 theaters. $3,326 theater average. Domestic total $8 million.
7.    Bad Teacher (Sony) $5.2 million down 42% in its fourth weekend at 2,659 theaters. $1,956 theater average.  Domestic total: $88.5 million.
8.    Larry Crowne (U/Vendome) $2.57 million down 57% in its third weekend at 2,287 theaters.  $1,125 theater average. Domestic total: $31.6 million.
9.    Super 8 (Paramount) $1.925 million down 60% in its sixth weekend at 1,459 theaters. $1,319 theater average. Domestic total: $122.2 million.
10. Midnight in Paris (Sony Classics) $1.89 million down 28% in its ninth weekend at 706 theaters. $2,678 theater average. Domestic total: $41.8 million.

4 Comments

  • Anthony | July 18, 2011 6:46 AMReply

    On a side note, Imax had sells out on all its Potter showings. Amazing -- am told the only way that could have done better is if they had more seats.

    Mary -- one reason why Midnight did so well is that it's so lightweight next to Match Point and Vicky Christina. I checked back when Match Point came out in 2005-- you're right - that award season, adult films were pretty much capped, i.e. Munich, Syriana. The only real breakout was "Walk the Line." Vicky was released late in the summer, did well upon its first few weeks in release, then kept itself in a limited release--had it went out earlier, it might have enjoyed a better run like Midnight. 2008-09 season was healthy for some adult titles with Slumdog, Benjamin Button and Gran Torino...but Revolutionary Road and Reader could only reach a limited crowd.

  • mary | July 18, 2011 2:00 AMReply

    Anthony - Having not seen "Midnight in Paris" yet (I'm not in US right now), but I guess timing does matter.
    When "Match Point" or "Vicky Christina Barcelona" were released, adult-driven films still generally had more difficult time in US theatrical market. But now, the box office successes of "Limitless", "The Lincoln Lawyer", "Hanna" and "Water for Elephants" clearly indicates that more audience are looking for accessible adult-driven films. Furthermore, very few accessible adult-driven films were reelased in the previous two months, so "Midnight in Paris" could fill the need in the market.

    Unluckily, many audience would still not accept experimental art films like "The Tree of Life"; still, Fox Searchlight have done the best they can do on releasing that film (and since Fox Searchlight didn't pay any money to acquire the North American distribution rights of "The Tree of Life", they will make reasonable profit on that film.)

  • Anthony | July 17, 2011 7:31 AMReply

    Mary -- I'm still amazed that Midnight in Paris is Woody's highest grossing film, especially since he's not starring in it. I thought it was fun, OK, but no Match Point or Vicky Christina Barcelona. Different market all together---when Orion releaed Hannah and her Sisters..they kept the film going for a year, especially during Oscar time.

  • mary | July 17, 2011 5:32 AMReply

    "The Dark Knight Rises" will beat the opening weekend record of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2". :p

    It seems like that Disney finance "Winnie the Pooh" just to make Pixar and John Lasseter happy. I wish that "Winnie the Pooh" would do better, but looks like Disney will still make some profit on this film. Anyway, Disney will still make 2D animations (and release Hayao Miyazaki's films) to keep Pixar and John Lasseter happy.

    I think that the opening of Sarah Palin's “Undefeated” is so-so. Although many of Americans are conservative, most of them don’t like to frequently watch conservative films in theaters. (It is just like what happens to Christian films)
    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20277417,00.html

    The opening of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is okay, even though the mostly mediocre reviews will stop this film from grossing much further. Anyway, Fox Searchlight are doing the best they can do on handling this train wreck from Wendi Murdoch. (leeson to filmmakers: please don't try to adapt ‘sensitive’ stories to pass Mainland China's censors again. )

    Sony Pictures Classics were clearly dumping "Life, Above All" (beside reviews, I didn't see any press coverage about this film in US medias in recent weeks). Still, it is sad that even Roger Ebert's quote (on the poster) and NY Times' strong review can't save this film.
    Anyway, “Midnight In Paris” and “Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” would still keep Sony Pictures Classics happy.

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