Forecast: 'Harry Potter' to Go Out with a Bang
Friday Update: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 decimated the midnight opening record last night, raking in $43.5 million at 3,800 locations. That alone would equal the 13th highest-grossing opening day ever. The previous midnight record holder was The Twilight Saga: Eclipse with $30 million at around 4,000 locations, followed by The Twilight Saga: New Moon with $26.3 million at 3,514 locations. The last Potter, Deathly Hallows Part 1, conjured a $24 million midnight start at 3,700 locations, while Half-Blood Prince logged $22.2 million at 3,003 locations and The Dark Knight nabbed $18.5 million at 3,040 locations. Deathly Hallows Part 2 more than quadrupled 2011's previous midnight best The Hangover Part II, which drew $10.4 million at 2,600 locations.

Thursday Forecast: Finally, the drawn-out battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort comes to an end with the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The wizard wunderkind's last stand will play out on over 11,000 screens at 4,375 locations, marking not only the series' broadest release yet but one of the largest ever, and the movie's already set an advance ticket sales record.

Predecessor Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 posted a franchise-high $125 million opening gross, but the penultimate Potter's $295 milion final haul was tepid by franchise standards. It made less than Half-Blood Prince and ranked as the least-attended Potter yet, potentially casting a shadow over Part 2. On the other hand, it could be spun as a major victory for half of a movie. With such a long-standing and enormously popular franchise, a disappointing entry isn't necessarily the end of the world: for example, Star Wars rebounded with its final movie Revenge of the Sith after hitting a low with Attack of the Clones, though it still didn't match its earlier movies.

Deathly Hallows Part 2's packing final-movie mojo, and the only question is how high it will fly. "It All Ends," Warner Bros.' marketing bluntly declares amidst the intense spectacle of the movie's wizard war. By opening Part 2 on a Friday instead of Wednesday like the past July Potters, Warner is clearly gunning for the opening weekend pantheon, if not dethroning all-time champ and Warner stable mate The Dark Knight's $158.4 million.

Combined, the first seven Harry Potter movies grossed $2 billion, and it has been a remarkably consistent run, even if it has trended downward, averaging nearly $287 million per movie. Deathly Hallows Part 2 will push Harry Potter past Star Wars to become the top-grossing franchise of all time (though with around half of the attendance). Part 2 marks Potter's first foray in the 3D illusion, and the movie will play at a record 3,000-plus 3D locations, including a record IMAX count of 274.

In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is pulling a whopping 67.7 percent for "opening weekend" so far, surpassing its predecessor's 64.1 percent score. The Dark Knight had nearly 77 percent when it released.

Meanwhile, as a colorful respite from the dark sturm und drang of Potter, Winnie the Pooh debuts at 2,405 locations, seemingly like a lamb to the slaughter. In Box Office Mojo's polling, though, the traditionally animated movie has logged a solid 6.3 percent "opening weekend" score, similar to Mr. Popper's Penguins and slightly better than Zookeeper. Distributor Walt Disney Pictures has taken a nostalgic and sentimental angle in its marketing, brought home by the extensive use of the Keane song "Somewhere Only We Know." Pooh, though, hasn't been big business recently: Pooh's Heffalump Movie and Piglet's Big Movie had little impact, though The Tigger Movie was a success, grossing $45.6 million back in 2000.

The Forecast, July 15-17

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - $145 million

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $21.5 million

3. Horrible Bosses - $14.5 million

4. Winnie the Pooh - $11.5 million

5. Zookeeper - $10.5 million

Bar for Success

Since it's the final movie in the blockbuster series and is opening on a Friday, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 needs to break the franchise record by a commanding margin. It needs to be put on track to becoming not only the highest-grossing Potter yet, but one of the most attended as well. Therefore, anything less than $145 million would be a bit disappointing.

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Comps for:

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2'

'Winnie the Pooh'