Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Casts Spell on Box Office

The eagerly awaited finale of the decade-long Harry Potter film franchise opened to record numbers this weekend at the North American box office. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 not only set records domestically, it also set numerous records overseas as well, including the biggest global weekend take ever. Thanks to the arrival of the boy wizard’s cinematic swan song, the domestic box office surged a whopping 90% over last weekend’s top ten as well as 46% from the top ten last year at this time.

Finishing off a decade of box office smash runs of films that were both critical and audience favorites, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 began its run at 12:01am (and in some places, additional shows at three and six am) Friday night in North America on 3,800 screens, earning a huge $43.6 million. This amount included an estimated $25 million in pre-release sales and easily passed the record set last summer by The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which earned $30 million from its midnight showings. Deathly Hallows expanded to 4,375 screens during the day on Friday and added $48.1 million from regular showings to bring the first day’s overall total to an unreal $92.1 million.

Based on that massive take, Deathly Hallows dropped by an understandable 53% on Saturday to $42.8 million. Warner is estimating that the film will ease 22% on Sunday to bring in $33.6 million. Should the estimates hold, then Harry is looking at a record-setting domestic weekend take of $168.5 million and a phenomenal per screen average of $38,526. If it holds, the total would surpass the $158 million record set by The Dark Knight three years ago this weekend. Potter’s opening not only set a record for the franchise, it also set a record for biggest global opening weekend ever. International business over the weekend totaled $307 million, pushing the worldwide take to $475.6 million. That nearly half-billion dollar total easily eclipses the $359 million debut two years ago set by the sixth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Deathly Hallows also benefited from being the first movie in the series to be fully presented in 3D (the fifth and sixth films offered selected scenes in 3D during their IMAX runs).

While 3D screens undoubtedly helped push the totals for Hallows into the stratosphere, it did not turn out to be the prime viewing choice for ticket buyers. As has been the case with several big event movies this summer (the exception being Transformers: Dark of the Moon), 3D sales for Deathly Hallows were outpaced by 2D sales. While 3D screens did contribute roughly 43% of the weekend sales (the overseas percentage was higher at 61%), the percentage was undoubtedly lower than the film’s distributor, Warner Brothers, had hoped for. The 2D/3D split for Deathly Hallows can’t be seen as welcome news to the studios, who have been pinning their hopes on 3D technology to drive additional revenue for their pricier productions. The next big film that will be under the 3D sales microscope by the studios and box office analysis is Paramount’s Captain America: The First Avenger, which arrives this Friday.

Disappointing 3D revenue aside, there was more welcome news for the lucrative franchise this weekend in the form of notices. Not only did ticket buyers bestow the David Yates-directed finale a deserved “A” CinemaScore rating, film critics were also wild about Harry’s final appearance. On Rotten Tomatoes, Deathly Hallows earned an excellent 97% approval rating, easily the highest rating that the long-running series has achieved among critics. As if that isn’t enough, the film has also become the best-reviewed fictional film of 2011 so far (the documentary Project Nim has also earned a 97% approval rating on RT). This near-unanimous praise from critics and ticket buyers should help keep the Deathly Hallows juggernaut rolling right through the remainder of the summer while pushing it to become the highest-grossing film of 2011 in a few short weeks.

After two big weeks at the top, Paramount’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon stepped aside to make way for the Hogwarts Express. Dropping 55% from last weekend, Optimus Prime and pals conjured up an estimated $21.2 million in its third round to bring its three-week total to a great $302.8 million. The film is still on track to finish near the $350 million mark. Overseas, Transformers 3 continued to transform into a cash cow as its total surged to the $424 million mark as of last Thursday. The one billion dollar global mark is still a strong possibility for the latest Michael Bay extravaganza.

A pair of comedies that debuted last weekend had solid second rounds. Benefiting from positive viewer word-of-mouth was the R-rated comedy Horrible Bosses, which eased only 37% to earn $17.6 million on 3,138 screens. Landing in third place, the Jason Bateman starrer has earned $60 million so far and could reach $100 million. The Kevin James comedy Zookeeper also held up well to land in fourth place. Easing 38% from its so-so debut a week ago, the critically-reviled comedy earned an estimated $12.5 million on 3,482 screens. To date, Zookeeper has earned $42.3 million and could finish its run with $60-65 million in the bank.

A pair of Disney flicks occupied spots five and six. Cars 2 (already up for pre-order on Blu-ray 3D) continued its fast burn in fifth place, dropping 45% in attendance from last weekend. The Pixar feature added $8.34 million this weekend to bring its four-week total to the $165 million mark. The $185-190 million finish line is possible for the sequel. In sixth place with a small estimated debut of $8 million on 2,405 screens was the 2D animated Winnie the Pooh. The theatrical return of the beloved character was championed by critics, who bestowed it with a solid 91% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating. Unfortunately, families had too many other options to choose from this weekend and that hurt Pooh’s chances of having a bigger debut. Word-of-mouth may help the movie hold up over the next weekend or two prior to a quick trip to home video.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

7) Bad Teacher (Sony) $5 million (off -42% from last weekend, $88.5 million to date)

8) Larry Crowne (Universal) $2.5 million (-56%, $31.6 million to date)

9) Super 8 (Paramount) $1.9 million (-60%, $122 million to date)

10) Midnight in Paris (Sony Classics) $1.8 million (-28%, $41.7 million to date)

Next weekend, Captain America: The First Avenger joins the summer superhero crowd while Sony will open the Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake comedy Friends With Benefits.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

TheHDRoom may be paid a small commission for any services or products ordered through select links on this page.