Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Box Office (07/18/11): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II dethrones The Dark Knight, earning $169.1 million in its opening weekend.

The Harry Potter series finished where it started, at the top of the box office with a record breaking opening weekend. Nine-and-a-half years ago, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opened the series with a $90.2 million, breaking the 4.5 year old opening weekend record set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($72 million).  Over the next 9.5 years, said record was broken four more times, with the last such toppling this very weekend three years ago with The Dark Knight's $158 million Fri-Sun take.  With nearly ten years of anticipation, The Boy Who Lived has returned to the top of the opening weekend charts with a massive $169.1 million Friday-Sunday gross.  That includes a record $91 Friday (best single day, best opening day, best Friday) which in turn included a record $43.5 million at 12:01am alone.  As expected, the picture was massively front-loaded, ending the weekend with the second-smallest weekend multiplier on record, 1.85x (for newbies, weekend multiplier is the final weekend total divided by the first day).  It also set another 'negative' record, earning 25.7% of its weekend total in those Thursday at 12:01am showings alone (the previous such record was set by the last Harry Potter film, which grossed 19% of its $125 million Fri-Sun haul at midnight).

For the record, even with inflation and the 3D price bump, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II (review) still ranks amongst the very biggest weekends ever in terms of adjusted for inflation (third place behind The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3), and tickets sold (also in third place).  The expected monster frontloading puts a token blemish on this new record, but $169 million in three days is still $169 million in three days.  Warner Bros's decision to split the final book into two films payed off financially and arguably artistically.  The Deathly Hallows part I was the best film in the series, and this series finale suffered only from being too short and rushed compared to its predecessors.  The Harry Potter franchise is without question this generation's Star Wars, and this final chapter brought out everybody who had even loosely followed the saga over the last decade.  For those who genuinely cared, this was THE event film of the summer, the pay off to seven previous films and the final farewell to any number of classic characters.  The film scored an A from Cinemascore, with an A+ from females who made up 54% of the audience.  It played 55% over-25 and 57% 2D (without the 3D boost, it would have grossed around $150 million, or just below Spider-Man 3). It remains to be seen whether the the allure of seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermione one last time will prevent this film from being as massively frontloaded as the previous three sequels. The last three sequels all did just over or just under twice their opening weekends (five-day openings in the case of parts 5 and 6), ending up between $290 and $301 million the last four times (The Goblet of Fire opened with $101 million in 2005 and made it to $290 million, a 2.8x weekend-to-final multiplier).

If the finale can pull in that 2.8x multiplier, it will end up with $474 million.  That's a bit pie-in-the-sky, even with the whole 'final film' hook.  Even the famously leggy The Dark Knight earned 'just' 3.4x its opening weekend (a multiplier that would give this new champion $575 million).  More likely is that it follows the path of the last film, with a 2.36x multiplier and a $400 million domestic total.  Worst case scenario, it merely doubles this opening weekend take, still ending with a series high of $339 million.  We'll know in the next couple days.  The Dark Knight had a pretty mediocre 2.35x weekend multiplier, and it wasn't until it earned a scorching $66 million on its first three weekdays that I knew it was more than just a quick-kill blockbuster.  Either way, it will be a brutal battle for first place in the US against Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which now has $302 million and will likely top out around $370 million.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II set a new worldwide opening weekend record as well, with $475 million.  The previous five-day worldwide record was The Half-Blood Prince's $394 million.  It is sure to become the third film this year (along with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and, eventually Transformers Dark of the Moon) to top $1 billion worldwide.

How long this opening weekend (and single day/midnight) record stays intact is a good question.  As much as we hate to admit it, the 3D helped.  The last two Twilight films are, as of yet, not going the 3D route, while Chris Nolan is releasing The Dark Knight Rises in 2D and IMAX 2D.  I don't think either of the Twilight films have it in them to take down the weekend record, as the last book is disliked and/or loathed by much of the fanbase.  The Dark Knight Rises is the obvious likely contender, especially with just another $10 million separating The Dark Knight's opening weekend from the new three-day champion (why I'm not as excited for it as you might be).  But one wonders whether the mainstream appeal of the last film's street-level Batman vs. The Joker epic can be matched by a finale starring Catwoman and uh... Bane (that terrible teaser doesn't help either).  And there is frankly nothing left on the immediate horizon outside of Batman and Edward/Bella that has the innate appeal to beat this record.  Barring some unexpectedly huge debuts for The Avengers, Star Trek 2.0 (if it even gets off the ground), or The Amazing Spider-Man (don't count on it, the original record-breaking Sam Raimi film was capitalizing on 15 years of pent-up demand and post-9/11 patriotism/nationalism), this record may stand for a very long time if Batman can't take it back next year.

The only other movie to open wide this weekend was Disney's Winnie the Pooh (review).  The film was an attempt to revive the theatrical fortunes of the classic children's literary character, but Disney frankly picked a very bad weekend to open on.  The $30 million 2D, hand-drawn feature grossed just $7.8 million in its debut, putting the short-term profitability of this frankly delightful little cartoon in doubt.  This was clear a case of counter-programming that didn't take, or merely a case of Disney merely treating the film as a tax write-off.  I do know that the film would have likely been far more successful opening on a holiday weekend where the biggest franchise of all time was not debuting its final entry.  Put this in the Martin Luther King Jr weekend next year, and it probably flirts with $15-20 million.  Anyway, the film is pretty great, so hopefully the British can save it.  Opening in limited release was the Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated (I'll let others make fun of the accuracy of that title).  The film debuted on ten screens but managed just $6,513 per screen.  If this were a wide release, that would be pretty impressive, but for a ten-screen debut, it is frankly not.  As tempting as it is to use this number as a political punching bag, would any of us fellow liberals pay $10 and drive to a theater see a 90-minute halo-agraphy about, I dunno, Russ Feingold?  Also debuting in limited release was Errol Morris's Tabloid, which pulled in $91,201 on seven screens.

In holdover news, Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris became Allen's highest-grossing film ever, passing Hannah and Her Sisters and upping its cum to $41.7 million.  The film is Allen's seventh-most popular film when adjusted for inflation and still stands his his most successful film since 1986, and after that his biggest hit since the late 1970s.  Bridesmaids now sits with $161 million, while Kung Fu Panda 2 crossed $160 million (with $582 million worldwide), and Super 8 sits with $122 million.  Bad Teacher has $88 million and will cross $100 million next weekend.  Horrible Bosses had a solid -39% decline and has $60 million in ten days.  The Zookeeper also had an okay drop, but its slightly smaller-than-expected opening leaves the expensive film with $42 million in ten days.  Cars 2 sits with $165 million, which makes it surely the first Pixar film since A Bug's Life in 1998 not to cross the $200 million mark (it's nearing $300 million worldwide).  Finally, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life crossed the $10 million mark this weekend, despite stubbornly refusing to actually expand above 240 screens.

Join us next weekend, when Paramount and Marvel unleash Captain America (review coming Wednesday), while Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis try to be Friends With Benefits (which is totally different from No Strings Attached).  For a look at the previous Harry Potter films, read the retrospectives of 12345, and 6.  Plus the original reviews for 67, and 8.  For a detailed look at the history of the modern opening weekend record-breakers (written the last time the record was broken), go HERE.

Scott Mendelson


Kob Monney said...

Those numbers worry me a little, if only because (I suspect) it will give studios an incentive to look for material with a built-in audience as oppose to producing original material (at least when it comes to blockbusters).

Maybe I'm exaggerating this hypothetical effect and while kudos are in order for Warner Bros and the cast/staff of the franchise for making a consistent (and high grossing) films, I personally wouldn't afford these films classic status like the original Star Wars trilogy.They're good, enjoyable films but for me at least they don't matter as much nor do they excite me in the same way as when the Star Wars films were re-released in the 90s (and I was an avid fan back when it came out as I was around the same age as Harry).

Anyway, lets hope they put that money to making eveb better films.

Kyle Leaman said...

Scott, do you think the first part of the Hobbit will have the chance to capture the weekend crown in 2012? My guess would be no, but who knows right?


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