Here we go. For box-office prognosticators, it doesn’t get more exciting than this. A little movie named Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 hits theaters at midnight tonight, and it’s about to make such a large amount of money that you’d need two of Hermione’s bottomless bags to carry it all. But just how much dough are we talking about here? And how many box-office records will fall as Muggles bid farewell to the highest grossing film series of all time? After consulting with Professor Trelawney, here’s what my box-office tealeaves had to say:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2: $152 million
Going into the weekend, there is a trio of records that Potter will attempt to break: midnight debut, opening day, and opening weekend. Let’s look at each individually. The biggest midnight debut ever was posted by last year’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which earned $30 million. Potter should have no trouble passing that benchmark, plus Deathly Hallows — Part 1‘s $24 million midnight total. The PG-13 movie is playing in more than 3,800 theaters at midnight and, according to Warner Bros., has already grossed $25 million from midnight tickets purchased in advance. Fandango is reporting that 6,300 midnight shows have already sold out, and that the online ticketing service has sold more midnight and early morning shows for Potter than for any other movie ever. Add in IMAX theaters — 99 percent of all IMAX midnight shows have sold out, according to the large-screen company — and 3-D surcharges, and you’re looking at a midnight debut that should reach $35 million and possibly $40 million.
Potter‘s massive midnight start may also fuel its opening-day tally past the record of $72.7 million, which is held by The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The wizarding movie is playing on more than 11,000 screens in 4,375 theaters — the third-widest release ever. Of those 4,375 theaters, more than 3,000 will be showing the movie in 3-D, which makes this the largest 3-D release ever. And according to Warner Bros., Potter has so far collected a total of $45 million from pre-release ticket sales. And, yup, that’s also a record. Part 1 conjured up $61.7 million its first day, of which 39 percent came from midnight showings. If one assumes that Part 2 will be a bit more front-loaded with its midnight gross — let’s say it accounts for half of its opening day — that places the movie on track for $70 million to $80 million during its first day. Let’s split the difference and say that Potter breaks the record with $75 million.
The trickiest figure to predict here, though, is Potter’s weekend total. Just how front-loaded will the film be? How much will it drop from Friday to Saturday? Part 1 fell 38 percent from Friday to Saturday, and 34 percent from Saturday to Sunday. If Part 2 follows suit, it’ll gross $46.5 million on Saturday and $30.5 million on Sunday — for a weekend total of $152 million. That sounds about right, and would place Potter a bit below The Dark Knight‘s opening-weekend record of $158.4 million. As passionate as Potter fans may be, this is the eighth film in the series, and those who haven’t kept up with the past seven films may sit this one out. Also, Los Angeles will be enduring Carmageddon, with the vital 405 freeway shutting down for construction for the whole weekend. Many Angelenos may refuse to leave their homes, but a number of industry experts told me that Carmageddon could work in Potter‘s favor, as residents will travel to their local theaters instead of farther destinations like the beach.
A final factor to consider is Potter‘s reviews. Not only is Part 2 earning glowing reviews, it has received the best reviews of any wide-release film so far this year, according to both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Someone who isn’t interested in the Potter series isn’t going to rush out and catch Part 2 just because it’s critically acclaimed, but those who were waiting to see the film its second weekend may become more inclined to buy a ticket sooner rather than later. And if Part 2 is as enchanting as the critics are claiming, Potterheads may insist on seeing the movie two or three times this weekend. In other words, while I’m not predicting Potter will surpass The Dark Knight‘s opening-weekend record, I’m not saying it couldn’t happen. This is Harry Potter we’re talking about, and he’s been known to do some extraordinary things.
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon: $23 million
Having just typed 739 words about Potter, let’s keep this brief: Michael Bay’s symphony of clashing metal dropped 52 percent its second weekend. Moviegoers seem to like Transformers — it earned an “A” from CinemaScore graders — but Potter will steal away the film’s IMAX theaters and many of its 3-D screens. Another fall of at least 50 percent seems likely.
3. Horrible Bosses: $17 million
It’s been a splendid summer for R-rated comedies, as this kill-your-superiors flick debuted to a strong $28.3 million last weekend. CinemaScore audiences gave it a healthy “B+” rating, and the film will serve as attractive counter-programming for those not interested in wizards and robots. Figure a decline of about 40 percent.
4. Zookeeper: $11 million
Its reviews would frighten a rhinoceros, but this Kevin James comedy also received a “B+” from CinemaScore moviegoers and opened to a solid $20.1 million last weekend. However, Potter should snatch away a significant portion of Zookeeper‘s family audience, and Winnie the Pooh may also offer some competition. Let’s say a 45-percent drop.
5. Winnie the Pooh: $10 million
The G-rated, 69-minute animated movie has earned favorable reviews, and has particularly been singled out as being a wonderful way to introduce young children to moviegoing. The last Pooh film to hit theaters was 2005′s Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, which debuted to $5.8 million. Winnie the Pooh should open to nearly double that.