Weekend Box Office (July 15 - 17, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Box office records of all kinds were demolished by the wildly anticipated franchise closer Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which generated the biggest opening in Hollywood history. The eighth and final chapter in the decade-long fantasy series opened to an eye-popping $169.2M from North America, according to final studio figures, plus an additional $312.3M from overseas markets which began running the film on Wednesday leading to a scorching worldwide launch of $481.6M. All three figures broke the all-time records beating The Dark Knight's $158.4M domestic opening weekend in July 2008, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' $260.4M international bow this past May, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's $394M global debut in July 2009.

Domestically, the new Potter also smashed records for the best ever midnight launch with $43.5M on late Thursday night including 3:00am shows that many theaters added, and a colossal $91.1M opening day including those midnights. The previous records were held by the Twilight franchise with last summer's Eclipse having a $30M midnight bow and 2009's New Moon posting a $72.7M first day. Like a boxer unifying multiple titles, Harry Potter pulled off a remarkable feat setting new box office records in five major categories.

The new Potter installment opened ultrawide in 4,375 theaters - including a record 274 IMAX venues - and was the first in the franchise to be presented in 3D which helped to boost the grosses. As with most action epics, North American moviegoers were less interested in the 3D conversion as 43% of the weekend gross came from the extra-dimensional screens while overseas the rate was much higher at 60%. The domestic per-theater average stood at a sturdy $38,672.

The concluding chapter's opening weekend was a healthy 35% bigger than the $125M bow last November of Part 1 which was in 2D and went on to finish with $295M. The first seven Potter films have grossed a sizzling $6.36 billion worldwide and the franchise now sits at $6.85 billion with the launch of the final saga. The series will shatter the $7 billion mark in a matter of days.

Critics and audiences both loved the new Deathly Hallows. Reviews were not only among the best for the series, but also rank as among the most positive for any wide release this year. Warner Bros. will be hoping that the regular Oscar attention it receives for the wizard franchise will this time go beyond the technical categories and into other areas including Best Picture. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the PG-13 pic an overall A grade. This does not necessarily mean the film will have legs as Potter pics are always heavily front-loaded with this one being even more so.

The historic frame began with the stunning $91.1M Friday which included the intense demand from fans to see right away how the saga ends on the big screen. Saturday sales crumbled by a very high 53% to $42.4M which did not come close to breaking the record for the largest Saturday. Spider-Man 3 still holds that distinction with $51.3M from May 2007. The studio saw a slim 16% dip on Sunday to $35.8M. With such upfront demand, Friday accounted for a whopping 54% of the three-day gross.

IMAX also broke domestic and global records with the new Hallows. Fans spent $15.5M from the North American sites beating the $12.2M of last year's Alice in Wonderland and $23.5M from 394 screens worldwide beating the most recent Transformers which did $20.4M. The previous recordholders were also in 3D.

Being a global phenomenon, it was no surprise that grosses around the world were sensational for Harry's last stand with nearly a half-billion dollars collected in just five days. The jaw-dropping $312.3M overseas debut came from 20,000 screens across 59 countries with China still to come on August 4. Leading the way this weekend (with different numbers of days depending on local launches) were the United Kingdom with $37.8M, Australia with $27.1M, Germany with $26M, France with $24.5M, and Japan with $21.9M. Like in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia set all-time opening weekend records too.

Despite rising ticket prices over the years, the first film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone overseas) still holds the series records for total domestic and worldwide grosses with $317.6M and $970M, respectively. Those could crumble too as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 may find its way north of $325M from North America and $1 billion globally.

Get daily Harry Potter box office updates and analysis all week by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Michael Bay took a hit by the teen wizard as his latest action juggernaut Transformers: Dark of the Moon fell 55% in its third frame to $21.3M. But the latest Autobots film burst through the triple century mark finishing the weekend at $302.9M. Declines for previous chapters when a new Potter debuted were lower with 48% in 2007 and 44% in 2009. However, both of those Hogwarts films debuted on a Wednesday diluting the weekend figures. With both new chapters of Transformers and Harry Potter being in 3D, the fight for those special screens also played into this weekend's showdown.

With rival summer action films Captain America: The First Avenger, Cowboys & Aliens, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes opening over each of the next three weekends, more large declines are likely in the weeks ahead putting Dark of the Moon on course to finish with about $360M domestically. Overseas, Transformers felt the heat of Hogwarts too with the weekend take falling 58% to an estimated $39M. With the international cume now up to $460M - a new high for the franchise thanks in part to 3D prices - the global tally surged to a stunning $762.9M with China and Japan still to open. Korea has led all overseas markets with $61.6M to date.

The Warner Bros. comedy Horrible Bosses held up quite well in its second weekend grossing $17.8M for a relatively low 37% decline. The R-rated workplace pic has banked an impressive $60.1M in just ten days and could end up breaking the $100M mark. Fellow sophomore comedy Zookeeper fared well too dipping only 39% to $12.3M. Sony has taken in $42.4M in ten days with the expensive Kevin James project and could be on the way to around $75M.

A pair of G-rated toons from Disney followed. The Pixar sequel Cars 2 fell 45% to $8.4M for a $165.4M sum to date. By comparison, the first Cars enjoyed a $14.6M gross in its fourth lap. Breaking $200M may be a tough mission to accomplish for Mater and pals who may end closer to the $190M mark. The Mouse House saw a soft debut for its well-reviewed animated tale Winnie the Pooh which debuted to $7.9M from 2,405 locations for a mild $3,267 average.

The Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher dropped 42% to $5.2M giving Sony a solid $88.5M to date. Diaz's My Best Friend's Wedding co-star Julia Roberts, who is also on screen now as a bad teacher, followed with the Tom Hanks film Larry Crowne which suffered another steep fall sliding 55% to $2.7M. Universal has collected a mere $31.7M to date.

Rounding out the top ten with grosses of $2M and $1.9M, respectively, were the sci-fi drama Super 8 and the Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris. The Paramount actioner tumbled 59% with Potter's arrival putting the cume at $122.3M. The Sony Classics release dipped only 29% and has taken in $41.8M so far making it the veteran director's all-time top-grossing film passing the $40.1M of 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters. Of course, Hannah and films like Annie Hall and Manhattan all sold a much larger amount of tickets.

New domestic totals for top summer grossers outside the top ten include $251.9M for The Hangover Part II, $237.4M for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, $209.1M for Fast Five, $179.5M for Thor, $161.3M for Bridesmaids, $160.1M for Kung Fu Panda 2, $143.5M for X-Men: First Class, $112.8M for Green Lantern.

The top ten films grossed $248.6M which was up a potent 47% from last year when Inception opened in the top spot with $62.8M; and up a huge 65% from 2009 when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince debuted at number one with $77.8M over the weekend and $158M over five days.

Compared to projections, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 debuted well above my $147M forecast while Winnie the Pooh came in below my $10M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED box office charts for the Top Opening Weekends, Top Opening Days, Top July Openings and Harry Potter franchise.

For a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Captain America and Friends With Benefits both open.

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# Title Jul 15 - 17 Jul 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows Part 2 $ 169,189,427 4,375 1 $ 38,672 $ 169,189,427 Warner Bros.
2 Transformers: Dark of the Moon 21,328,545 47,103,276 -54.7 3,917 3 5,445 302,878,797 Paramount
3 Horrible Bosses 17,777,464 28,302,165 -37.2 3,134 2 5,672 60,149,603 Warner Bros.
4 Zookeeper 12,330,512 20,065,617 -38.5 3,482 2 3,541 42,382,978 Sony
5 Cars 2 8,407,529 15,212,015 -44.7 3,249 4 2,588 165,389,754 Disney
6 Winnie the Pooh 7,857,076 2,405 1 3,267 7,857,076 Disney
7 Bad Teacher 5,152,447 8,914,412 -42.2 2,659 4 1,938 88,457,639 Sony
8 Larry Crowne 2,664,550 5,936,405 -55.1 2,287 3 1,165 31,719,560 Universal
9 Super 8 1,970,377 4,838,205 -59.3 1,459 6 1,350 122,287,359 Paramount
10 Midnight in Paris 1,876,588 2,634,785 -28.8 706 9 2,658 41,778,698 Sony Classics
11 Bridesmaids 1,722,205 2,628,285 -34.5 872 10 1,975 161,329,580 Universal
12 Mr. Popper's Penguins 1,368,355 3,154,435 -56.6 1,002 5 1,366 61,473,016 Fox
13 Green Lantern 1,359,133 3,147,225 -56.8 973 5 1,397 112,789,166 Warner Bros.
14 Monte Carlo 1,318,448 3,800,604 -65.3 1,169 3 1,128 20,110,471 Fox
15 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara 960,548 100 1 9,605 960,548 Eros
16 X-Men: First Class 635,586 1,473,384 -56.9 470 7 1,352 143,455,857 Fox
17 The Tree of Life 626,723 793,706 -21.0 235 7 2,667 10,090,489 Fox Searchlight
18 The Hangover Part II 504,803 1,198,064 -57.9 455 8 1,109 251,881,953 Warner Bros.
19 Pirates of the Caribbean: OST 493,155 1,054,694 -53.2 373 9 1,322 237,353,634 Disney
20 Kung Fu Panda 2 460,755 865,109 -46.7 354 8 1,302 160,074,529 Paramount
Top 5 $ 229,033,477 $ 119,597,485 91.5
Top 10 248,554,515 140,474,359 76.9
Top 20 258,004,226 152,662,433 69.0
Top 20 vs. 2010 258,004,226 174,751,807 47.6

Last Updated: July 18, 2011 at 5:40PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.