Weekend Report: ‘Harry Potter’ Has Hot-Blooded Premiere
The remarkably popular Harry Potter franchise kept the cauldrons churning with the release of its sixth installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which drew $77.8 million on approximately 9,600 screens at 4,325 locations over the weekend. Compared to last year, though, when The Dark Knight blazed into the record books, overall weekend business was down a sharp 38 percent, and attendance was a bit soft versus the more normal weekends of years past, due in part to Harry Potter being the sole new nationwide release.

In its first five days, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince pulled in $158 million, surpassing predecessor Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix's $139.7 million as the franchise's highest-grossing five-day start and ranking sixth among all movies. The bulk of Half-Blood Prince's lead over Order of the Phoenix came from its $58.2 million opening day, while Thursday through Saturday were slightly ahead and Sunday was a bit behind Order of the Phoenix. Order of the Phoenix's first weekend wasn't far behind at $77.1 million, and it ended its run at $292 million.

While one might yawn at another Harry Potter becoming a blockbuster, it is exceptional for a series that was a phenomenon from the start to be this consistently popular. This time out, audiences had the longest wait yet, two years, and still showed up in droves for what was essentially a continued build-up to a finale that author J.K. Rowling revealed two years ago. Distributor Warner Bros.' exit polling indicated that 60 percent of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's audience was 18 years of age and older and 57 percent was female.

Unlike Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's opening did not include a significant IMAX release, because Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen still occupies those screens. Half-Blood Prince played at only three IMAX venues in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, which accounted for an estimated $338,000 of the five-day opening. The picture is scheduled for around 165 IMAX venues on July 29.

On the foreign front, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince delivered the highest-grossing foreign opening ever with $236 million from 54 territories. The previous benchmark was Spider-Man 3 with $230.5 million, while Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix began with $193 million from 44 territories. Add in the domestic gross, and Half-Blood Prince's five-day worldwide opening was $394 million, again topping Spider-Man 3, which came in at $381.7 million.

Another worldwide juggernaut, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, ranked second, both domestically and internationally. Domestically, the animated comedy-adventure unearthed $17.6 million and had the smallest third weekend drop of its franchise (36 percent). Its $151.9 million tally in 19 days nearly matched predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown's gross through the same point. Overseas, Dawn of the Dinosaurs is on track to handily surpass The Meltdown's $456.6 million total. Its foreign weekend was $61.9 million, and it eclipsed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to become the top picture overseas of the year with a mammoth $430.9 million

Back to the domestic weekend, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen dug up $13.7 million, and its total climbed to $363.8 million in 26 days, ranking 13th on the all time top grossing movies chart (and 88th adjusted for ticket price inflation). The action sequel's tally is running nearly 30 percent ahead of the first Transformers, and its fourth weekend percentage drop-off was about the same as its predecessor (43 percent).

Last weekend's No. 1 movie, Bruno, flamed out in its second weekend. After being sold as the outrageous follow-up to Borat, the comedy collapsed by 73 percent to $8.3 million, increasing its total to $49.5 million in ten days. In its second weekend, Borat expanded to nearly as many theaters as Bruno and made $28.3 million, and it had generated $67.1 million in ten days. However, perhaps portending a follow-up's potential, Borat itself didn't hang around that long after its first two weekends, winding up with $128.5 million.

While Bruno got bounced, the comedy break-out of the summer, The Hangover, was still in the mix with the slightest decline among nationwide releases, off 18 percent to $8.2 million. With $235.7 million in 45 days, it effectively matched the final tally of Wedding Crashers adjusted for ticket price inflation.

The Proposal also had a small drop, down 22 percent to $8.3 million. With $128.1 million in 31, days, the romantic comedy is now the highest-grossing picture that Sandra Bullock has appeared in, and it is on track to surpass the adjusted-for-ticket-price-inflation grosses of While You Were Sleeping and Miss Congeniality. The Proposal and The Hangover held so well that Public Enemies dipped below them with $7.7 million, lifting its haul to $79.6 million in 19 days. The crime drama hasn't exhibited much traction since its solid opening, and fell 44 percent this outing.

Also debuting, (500) Days of Summer had the biggest opening of the year among limited releases, collecting $834,501 at 27 sites, while The Hurt Locker continued to do decent limited business, packing $740,224 at 94 sites for a $2.1 million tally. It remains to be seen if these pictures can build into mainstream successes, but a modest year for specialty releases (in which Sunshine Cleaning ranks first with $12.1 million) might give the impression that they're more successful than they actually are.

Last Weekend

'Bruno' Not as Brawny as 'Borat'

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2008 - 'Dark Knight' Begins Smashingly

• 2007 - 'Chuck & Larry' Can't Stop 'Hairspray' Sheen

• 2006 - 'Pirates' Loot Piles Up, 'Lady' Walks Plank

• 2005 - 'Island' Deserted, 'Chocolate,' 'Wedding' Take Cake

Related Charts

Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time 5-day Openings

• All Time July Opening Weekends

• 'Harry Potter' Showdown