Weekend Box Office (July 17 - 19, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The wait was over for Hogwarts fans who rushed out to theaters around the world to see the much-anticipated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince powering the wizard sequel to a strong number one opening and the largest worldwide debut for any film ever. In North America, the PG-rated fantasy pic grossed $77.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday span, according to final studio figures, and a colossal $158M since its debut on Wednesday. Prince beat out the opening of the last installment of the franchise, 2007's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which also bowed on a Wednesday in July generating $77.1M on the weekend and $139.7M across the same five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday span. That put HBP 13% ahead in grosses and 6% ahead in admissions.

Anticipation was extra high this time around since Warner Bros. delayed the release of the new pic from last November to mid-July resulting in the longest gap ever between Potter films. Plus no new book has hit the market in nearly two years. The first film in the series, 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, still ranks as the top-grossing pic in the franchise with $317.6M which translates to about $413M at today's prices.

Prince's opening week performance was much more front-loaded than Phoenix's. The madness started on Tuesday night with a record $22.2M in post-midnight sales which nearly doubled the $12M figure for Phoenix from two years ago. The new installment's overall opening day tally of $52.8M on Wednesday was 32% stronger while Thursday's $22M take was 20% better. The lead slowed significantly by the weekend as Friday grossed $26.8M (up 4% from Phoenix), Saturday added $29.2M (up 3%), and Sunday brought in $21.8M (down 5%).

With the average cost of a movie ticket having risen by 7% in the last two years, the Friday-to-Sunday period for Prince's opening weekend actually saw fewer tickets sold than for Phoenix. But with the Wednesday-Thursday period being 28% better, the overall five-day debut period for the new pic was $18M higher. Phoenix's five-day start accounted for 48% of its eventual $292M domestic final. The global tally reached a stunning $938M with 69% of the gross coming from outside of North America.

Making Half-Blood Prince's debut impressive was the fact that IMAX grosses nearly vanished this time around since most of those screens are still playing the Transformers sequel until July 28. Phoenix's opening weekend included higher-priced ticket sales from 91 IMAX sites while Prince is currently in just three locations with the rest beginning their runs on July 29.

The well-reviewed Prince bowed on Wednesday in 4,275 theaters and expanded on Friday to 4,325 venues generating a sizzling $17,997 average over the Friday-to-Sunday session. It was the third widest launch in history after only The Dark Knight (4,366) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (4,362).

Globally, Half-Blood Prince was a juggernaut taking advantage of a day-and-date release around the world to generate a sensational $236M from 54 territories and 84 markets on 15,800 screens. Add in the domestic haul and the wizard film's $394M worldwide gross in five days stands as the film industry's biggest ever launch. Overseas accounted for 60% this weekend with the United Kingdom leading the way with a hefty $32.1M launch.

Claiming the number two spot for the third straight weekend was Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs which grossed $17.6M, down 36%, boosting the cume to a stellar $151.9M in 19 days. The 3D sequel has grossed virtually the same amount as its predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown did in 2006 over the same number of days. Dawn's summer release when kids are on vacation will help the new installment inch ahead in the coming days.

Yet another high-profile summer sequel followed in third. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen dropped a reasonable 44% to $13.7M in its fourth session boosting the cume to a staggering $363.8M for Paramount. That puts the Autobots flick at number 13 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters behind The Passion of the Christ which grossed $370.3M in 2004. Fallen, the year's biggest hit and its studio's second-highest grosser ever after Titanic, is still on course to break the $400M mark.

With Transformers and Harry Potter, Paramount and Warner Bros. both saw their year-to-date domestic grosses climb to $1.13 billion putting the studios in a tie for the current market share crown.

The raunchy mockumentary Brüno suffered the worst second weekend drop of any major summer film this year tumbling a disturbing 73% to $8.3M as audiences abandoned Sacha Baron Cohen's latest shockfest. The Universal release has laughed up $49.5M in ten days and looks to finish its domestic run very soon in the neighborhood of $65M. Overseas, the film is fading fast as well and has collected $46M including $36.3M from Universal's territories.

Buena Vista's The Proposal slipped by only 22% to $8.3M and has banked $128.1M becoming the top-grossing film of Sandra Bullock's career. The phony engagement pic surpassed the $121.2M of 1994's Speed, however that action hit sold significantly more tickets since admission prices have jumped 76% since then. The Warner Bros. smash The Hangover slipped by just 18% to $8.2M for sixth place and a total to date of $235.7M.

Falling 44% in its third weekend was the Johnny Depp-Christian Bale drama Public Enemies which shot up $7.7M raising the sum to $79.6M for Universal which remains the only major studio without a $100M hit this summer. Enemies is not guaranteed an invite to the century club, but it certainly has a good shot. Disney and Pixar took in $3.2M for Up, down 33%, lifting the cume to $279.6M putting the animated flick at number 38 on the all-time list ahead of the $279.2M of 2004's Meet the Fockers.

Rounding out the top ten were the tearjerker drama My Sister's Keeper with $2.8M, off 34%, and the teen comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper which fell 44% to $2.8M in its sophomore frame. Totals stand at $41.5M and $10.4M, respectively.

Opening to robust numbers in limited release was the indie comedy (500) Days of Summer which bowed to $834,501 from only 27 locations for a muscular $30,907 average per theater. The Joseph Gordon-Levitt-Zooey Deschanel starrer ranked twelfth for the weekend nationwide despite such a limited debut and expands next weekend into more than a dozen additional cities.

The top ten films grossed $150.4M which was down a steep 40% from last year when The Dark Knight broke the industry record opening in the top spot with $158.4M; but up 5% from 2007 when I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry debuted at number one with $34.2M.

Compared to projections, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opened below my five-day forecast of $171M.

Be sure to check BoxOfficeGuru.com all week for updates on the daily grosses of Harry Potter.

View the NEW daily box office breakdown of the five-day openings of Half-Blood Prince and Order of the Phoenix. And check the UPDATED charts for the Top Films of 2009 and the Top July Openings.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter. For NEW reviews of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and (500) Days of Summer visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Ugly Truth, G-Force, and Orphan all open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jul 17 - 19 Jul 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $ 77,835,727 4,325 1 $ 17,997 $ 158,022,354 Warner Bros.
2 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 17,561,406 27,607,497 -36.4 3,817 3 4,601 151,865,987 Fox
3 Transformers: ROTF 13,691,487 24,213,875 -43.5 3,857 4 3,550 363,808,123 Paramount
4 Brüno 8,318,385 30,619,130 -72.8 2,759 2 3,015 49,533,475 Universal
5 The Proposal 8,289,707 10,603,884 -21.8 3,043 5 2,724 128,083,273 Buena Vista
6 The Hangover 8,177,272 9,933,238 -17.7 2,667 7 3,066 235,744,423 Warner Bros.
7 Public Enemies 7,748,235 13,794,240 -43.8 3,118 3 2,485 79,639,205 Universal
8 Up 3,172,014 4,715,746 -32.7 1,708 8 1,857 279,583,282 Buena Vista
9 My Sister's Keeper 2,828,367 4,294,382 -34.1 1,967 4 1,438 41,507,695 Warner Bros.
10 I Love You, Beth Cooper 2,766,863 4,919,433 -43.8 1,872 2 1,478 10,363,239 Fox
11 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 889,259 1,543,516 -42.4 610 6 1,458 62,900,310 Sony
12 (500) Days of Summer 834,501 27 1 30,907 834,501 Fox Searchlight
13 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smith. 759,571 1,452,662 -47.7 515 9 1,475 171,820,365 Fox
14 The Hurt Locker 740,224 641,168 15.4 94 4 7,875 2,148,619 Summit
15 Star Trek 690,639 1,164,416 -40.7 505 11 1,368 253,164,613 Paramount
16 Moon 525,740 674,900 -22.1 251 6 2,095 2,654,338 Sony Classics
17 Away We Go 496,917 728,773 -31.8 299 7 1,662 8,283,525 Focus
18 Whatever Works 471,288 678,055 -30.5 228 5 2,067 3,890,755 Sony Classics
19 Terminator Salvation 420,964 241,731 74.1 195 9 2,159 123,769,662 Warner Bros.
20 Angels & Demons 413,476 338,922 22.0 396 10 1,044 132,460,823 Sony
Top 5 $ 125,696,712 $ 106,838,626 17.7
Top 10 150,389,463 132,244,941 13.7
Top 20 156,632,042 139,625,116 12.2
Top 20 vs. 2008 156,632,042 257,643,881 -39.2

Last Updated: July 20, 2009 at 5:30PM ET