Weekend Briefing: ‘Harry Potter’ Has Hallowed Midnight Launch
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 conjured a franchise high in its midnight opening, drawing an estimated $24 million at around 3,700 locations. It eclipsed the last movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which had a $22.2 million midnight launch at 3,003 locations. It also doubled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix's $12 million midnight and nearly quadrupled Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's $6.3 million.

The Twilight series maintained its midnight dominance: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is the all time benchmark with a touch over $30 million at 4,000 sites, while The Twilight Saga: New Moon delivered $26.3 million at 3,514 sites last year on the same early Friday period as Deathly Hallows Part 1. The Dark Knight, which still holds the opening weekend record with $158.4 million, racked up $18.5 million at 3,040 sites in its midnight debut.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 topped Eclipse on one front: midnight IMAX opening. Deathly Hallows Part 1 made $1.4 million (included in the $24 million) at a record 238 IMAX venues, surpassing Eclipse's $1 million at 192 IMAX venues.

Predecessor Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's $22.2 million midnight led to a $58.2 million opening day, while New Moon's $26.3 million midnight culminated in the all-time highest-grossing single day ever, $72.7 million.

This weekend, the penultimate Potter hits 4,125 locations, ranking as the third-broadest Potter release after the last two movies. Also opening nationwide is the thriller The Next Three Days at 2,564 locations.

The first six Harry Potter movies generated over $1.7 billion, ranking the franchise as the second highest-grossing ever behind Star Wars' $1.9 billion (factor in foreign grosses, and Potter's already tops with $5.4 billion). In a matter of days, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 should push the franchise past Star Wars.

Deathly Hallows Part 1 marks a return to the franchise's original pre-Thanksgiving weekend, following the July releases of the last two movies. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone kicked off the blockbuster series with $90.3 million on the same weekend in 2001, or the equivalent of nearly $127 million adjusted for ticket price inflation. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets followed in 2002 with $88.4 million or around $121 million adjusted. Goblet of Fire was the last pre-Thanksgiving, Friday-opening Potter, pulling a series-best $102.7 million first weekend in 2005 or the equivalent of close to $127 million. Since Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the hotly-anticipated beginning of the end, brandishes a bedazzled and action-packed marketing campaign and has the bonus of the biggest IMAX release ever, it's reasonable to expect even bigger initial grosses.

The Next Three Days counter-programs Harry Potter, attempting to appeal as an adult thriller. Only one movie has ever successfully opened in Potter's shadow: Walk the Line delivered a music biography record opposite Goblet of Fire in 2005. The Next Three Days is not as strongly positioned as Walk the Line was, despite the presence of the respectably bankable Russell Crowe. The movie's marketing presents the premise of a man trying to break his wife out of prison with some thrills, hoping to capture people's attention as a harrowing "how to" by way of Liam Neeson showing up to explain. However, it's not done in the most relatable manner, in part because the wife (played by Elizabeth Banks) isn't promoted enough to make a connection with audiences. It's all Crowe, when the movie may have been better served by giving Banks billing in the trailers and posters (especially with women). Then again, Banks is known as a comedic actress and seeing her in such a dramatic role may have been deemed off-putting.

In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 boasted a mighty 64 percent plus "opening weekend" vote, which was better than the previous Potters on record. The series' "opening weekend" scores have progressively improved through the years: Goblet of Fire had 54.4 percent, Order of the Phoenix had 57.6 percent and Half-Blood Prince had 60.4 percent. Meanwhile, The Next Three Days has garnered little interest, logging an 8.5 percent "opening weekend" score, which was close to Hostage and far below Mr. Crowe's State of Play.

Related Stories:

Sixth 'Harry Potter' Posts Franchise-Best Opening Day

'Harry Potter' Flies with the 'Phoenix'

'Harry Potter's 'Goblet' Runneth Over with Cash

'Eclipse' Rises with Record Release, Midnight Launch

'New Moon' Breaks Midnight Record

Last Weekend:

'Megamind' Stays on Track, 'Unstoppable' Holds the Denzel Washington Line

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2009 - 'New Moon' Opens with Deafening Howl

• 2008 - Box Office Enters 'Twilight' Zone

• 2007 - 'Beowulf' Can't Fell Box Office Blahs

• 2006 - Penguins Tip-Tap Past Bond

• 2005 - Harry Potter's 'Goblet' Runneth Over with Cash

• 2004 - 'National Treasure,' 'SpongeBob' Clean Up

Comps for:

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1'

'The Next Three Days'