Inside Pulse Box Office Report: Harry Potter Casts Spell On Competition

Apparently the only thing that can defeat Harry Potter is himself. Since the kid with a scar on his forehead debuted on the big screen in 2001, the franchise has amassed $5.5 billion in worldwide theatrical sales, making it the most profitable franchise in history. That may explain why the rumor mill is circling that George Lucas once again wants to revisit his Star Wars franchise; he doesn’t want to be in second place.

With the decision to split the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Warner Brothers is essentially getting people to pay twice to see one movie. Well, the studio has to squeeze every bit out of the franchise as they can, because after 2011 Harry Potter is no more. Well, unless WB wants to attract those with ADD viewing habits and release a Harry Potter film starring Justin Bieber.

Warner Bros. expects Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I to be the third theatrical release this year to eclipse a billion. With a $125 million opening it’s off to a good start. The opening is the best in the franchise thus far, surpassing the $102 million opening Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire got in 2005. Both that film and Deathly Hallows benefited from opening a year and half after the previous installment. Having fans of J.K. Rowling’s titular character waiting on pins and needles for the next film to be released is sound strategy for the studio. The wait for the last in the series won’t be that long of a wait; it arrives next summer.

Now while I can accept the films as passable entertainment, the advertising for the latest entry is laying it on pretty thick. To call Harry Potter the “motion picture event of a generation” is a bit much. Though “generation” does leave itself open to interpretation. Are we talking about the generation who read the books and are now watching the films when they could be reading other books or playing outside? Or are we talking about the generation who refuses to read and would rather have visual stimuli instead of leafing through a hardback, paperback or pressing a button on an eReader?

Would I prefer a wizard that wielded a magical shotgun instead of a wand, you bet. And forget Lord Voldemort trying to kill Harry once and for all, when are they going to get to the point in the story where Ron admits his true feelings to Harry and it becomes Brokeback Hogwarts?

This completes the snarky comments about Harry Potter.

Getting bounced to second place was the other children’s film looking for viewers this weekend. Megamind is lucky that Warner Bros. ditched the 3D conversion and released it in only 2D. Had they released it in 3D, it may had more than a 44.5% drop in attendance. Currently it is at $106 million domestic and should meet its production budget ($130 million), but it will be hard pressed to earn higher than $150 million. Overseas is where it will need to make up the difference and have it be a hit for DreamWorks.

In third place is the man vs. train thriller Unstoppable. The stripped-down thriller may have a PG-13 rating making it more visible to audiences, but with Denzel Washington as a lead it leans more toward adult entertainment. Still, with a $100 million pricetag and only $61 million after two weekends, it is far from being a runaway hit.

Due Date continues to eek its way to $100 million (I think it will fall short). Thankfully, Warner Bros. has Harry Potter to help offset the difference. And to think, after the success of The Hangover the studio entrusted writer-director Todd Phillips with his largest budget yet. Maybe less is more.

Trying to be counter-programming to Harry Potter this weekend was prison escape thriller The Next Three Days. The advertising for this film was all over the place. The trailer wasn’t all that good in a must-be-seen-in-theaters kind of way. The posters, especially this one, gave the impression that Russell Crowe would be doing his best Steve McQueen impersonation as a matinee idol. Though trying to attract adults, the adult crowd would have no part of it. Now grandma and grandpa might like to their grandkids every so often but can you imagine them in a theater with hundreds of kids in one place? They couldn’t take it. The thriller has a slow build that will turn off most audiences like it did this weekend. The last time Russell Crowe had a film that had similar opening numbers was in 1999 with The Insider. Though I don’t think he’ll be getting an Oscar nomination this time around.

With an unremarkable first week gross, Morning Glory didn’t suffer a huge loss in its second weekend. It did just enough to leapfrog the abysmal Skyline which has already surpassed its production budget of $10 million. Glory will be the type of movie that women will gobble up on DVD and Blu-ray when it is released and in a few years it will have steady airings on TNT and TBS and be part of Valentine’s Day sales along with 27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada, et al. Skyline will be the morbid curiosity that lingers in Redbox, where unassuming viewers will succumb to it.

Bunched together in places 8 and 9 are Red which actually saw some green during its theatrical run and Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls. Nearly reaching $90 million domestic, the action comedy Red should be fun to revisit on Blu-ray and DVD once it finishes its global run in foreign territories. Bruce Willis may not be an A+ talent at this point, but B+ isn’t half bad. Colored Girls is enjoying an average theatrical release. Tyler Perry will rectify that with another Madea film when adapts his latest play Madea’s Big Happy Family and release it in theaters next year.

Fair Game the $22 million drama that has only made $3 million thus far maintains its top 10 status, beating its closet competitor by more than $500k.

Adding 86 locations to its theater count, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours had a per-screen average of $8,472. Fox Searchlight seems to be biding its time with this release, slowly rolling it out into theaters. It worked for films like Juno and Boyle’s previous Slumdog Millionaire, but you would think that Boyle’s film would be pegged a little higher on the marquee. I guess a Best Picture win means squat when it comes to commerce. Still, Searchlight hasn’t shown its hand just yet. I have a feeling that Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan will pick up steam and we’ll have a case where an established film (The Social Network) will be upstaged by a late comer. Almost similar to Clint Eastwood and Million Dollar Baby stealing the thunder away from Martin Scorsese’s Aviator.

Box Office Estimates taken from

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I $125 million
2. Megamind – $16.2 million ($109 million overall)
3. Unstoppable – $13.1 million ($42 million overall)
4. Due Date – $9.1 million ($73 million overall)
5. The Next Three Days – $6.8 million
6. Morning Glory – $5.2 million ($20 million overall)
7. Skyline – $3.4 million ($18 million overall)
8. Red – $2.5 million ($84 million overall)
9. For Colored Girls – $2.4 million ($35 million overall)
10. Fair Game – $1.5 million ($3.7 million overall)

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