Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows --Part 1, based on J.K. Rowling’s last novel in the series, summoned $125.12 million at 4,125 venues and a fat theater average of 30,332–the second-best post-Labor day tally after last year’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142.8 million).
Lionsgate braved the challenge and bombed by putting Russell Crowe jailbreak thriller The Next Three Days against the wizard epic, which summoned up only $6.75 million at 2,564 theaters.
Although the last two Harry Potters were five-day openers during the summer, Deathly Hallows overtook the three-day record of the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which lit up $102.7 million in 2005 (the last time Harry Potter played in November).
This continuously spellbinding franchise bucks conventional wisdom of declining sequel revenues. (And has inspired scores of less fortunate franchise wannabes.) Audiences continue to grow with each film. The 18-34 demo has jumped from repping 10% of the crowd with the first Harry Potter in 2001 to 25% with Deathly Hallows. Warner Bros. has kept a consistent strategy of remaining faithful to the books and not attempting to reboot the films with a new cast. Most of all, the studio doesn’t take the Potter’s built-in brand awareness for granted. The studio markets “each film like it’s the first time around,” says studio distribution chief Dan Fellman. Global marketing spend for a Harry Potter ranges from $130-$150 million.
“The 10-year-olds who saw the first film in 2001 are now driving themselves to the midnight screenings,” added Fellman, who marveled at how the midnight grosses for Potter have surged from $600,000 with Goblet to $24 million with Deathly Hallows. Like other Harry Potters, 57% of the audience remains women. Plus, Harry Potter films have a multiplier on par with an animated tentpole: three times its first weekend ticket sales. So look for the film to have a nice healthy holiday run.
Last week, box office pundits were trumpeting that Deathly Hallows would break The Dark Knight’s all-time weekend opening of $158.4 million. In not doing so, Deathly Hallows by no means fell short at the box office. Distribution executives have mentioned countless times that when the projection data goes through the roof and indicates a hit, it becomes difficult to determine the girth of a B.O. bow beyond $100 million.
The only riddle with Deathly Hallows is how much did it cost? Producer David Heyman in an interview with TOH contends that “Deathly Hallows’ budget remained consistent with the previous three Potter films,” that the budget “did increase due to talent,” but didn’t spike dramatically. It’s widely reported that Deathly Hallows cost as much as the last film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at $250 million, a 67% uptick over the usual $150 million Potter budget. A Warner Bros. balance sheet shows the fifth film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with a staggering negative cost of $316 million. Whatever the price -- so far Harry Potter has done well for Warner Bros.: it’s the highest grossing movie franchise ever with $5.5 billion.
Top critics gave Deathly Hallows a 79% certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave it an A Cinemascore in every category.
Harry Potter films aren't known to suck all the wind out of the B.O., rather they spread the magic around to other strong adult-demo and family titles in the marketplace. Hence, Paul Haggis’ badly-reviewed The Next Three Days chose an ill-fated release date, as it lacked the stamina of Walk the Line, for example, which went toe-to-toe with Goblet and grossed $22.3 million. On the other hand, Fox’s critically-beloved Unstoppable held up with a mere 42% decline, making $13.1 million in its second weekend. Career comedy Morning Glory also held well with a 43% drop. Those families who deemed Deathly Hallows too harsh for the younger set indulged in Megamind, which has already flown past the century mark.
The top 10 films are as follows:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (Warner Bros.): $125.12 million in its first weekend at 4,125 theaters. $30,332 theater average. Domestic total: $125.1 million.
2. Megamind (Paramount/DreamWorks Animation): $16.2 million down 44% in its third weekend at 3,779 theaters. $4,280 theater average. Domestic total: $109.5 million.
3. Unstoppable (Fox): $13.1 million down 42% in its second weekend at 3,209 theaters. $4,082 theater average. Domestic total: $42 million.
4. Due Date (Warner Bros.): $9.15 million down 41% in its third weekend at 3,229 theaters. $2,834 theater average. Domestic total: $72.7 million.
5. The Next Three Days (Lionsgate): $6.75 million in its first weekend at 2,564 theaters. $2,632 theater average. Domestic total: $6.75 million.
6. Morning Glory (Paramount): $5.2 million down 43% in its second weekend at 2,544 theaters. $2,057 theater average. Domestic total: $19.9 million.
7. Skyline (Universal/Rogue): $3.4 million down 71% in its second weekend at 2,883 theaters. $1,190 theater average. Domestic total: $17.6 million.
8. Red (Summit): $2.5 million down 50% in its sixth weekend at 2,034 theaters. $1,213 theater average. Domestic total: $83.6 million.
9. For Colored Girls (Lionsgate): $2.4 million down 63% in its third weekend at 1,216 theaters. $1,972 theater average. Domestic total: $34.5 million.
10. Fair Game (Summit): $1.5 million up 47% in its third weekend at 386 theaters. $3,808 theater average. Domestic total: $3.7 million.