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After big midnight shows, 'Half-Blood Prince' performs just like 'Order of the Phoenix'

July 19, 2009 | 11:17 am

PotterHalf3

In the end, there were more hard-core muggles but not a big, new crop of moviegoers.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" earned a studio-estimated $159.7 million in its first five days in the U.S. and Canada, another strong start for the series and a modest jump from the $139.7 million that its predecessor "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" opened to in July 2007.

Overseas, "Half-Blood Prince" was bigger, earning $237 million in 54 foreign territories. Although comparisons are difficult due to ticket-price inflation as well as the mix of countries where movies open, it's clearly one of the biggest international starts of all time. "Order of the Phoenix" launched in 44 foreign territories and earned $193 million in its first five days.

Worldwide ticket sales for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" were a massive $396.7 million, a very healthy debut even given the sizable $250 million that Warner Bros. spent on production and $155 million to market and distribute the picture around the globe.

Many close observers of the box office had expected an even bigger domestic launch for "Harry," however, after it soared past previous records for midnight shows on its opening day, selling $22.2 million worth of tickets domestically. The previous record was $18.5 million for "The Dark Knight" last year. "Order of the Phoenix" earned only $12 million from its debut midnight showings. Based on that, it looked like the new "Potter" had a shot at breaking the record for a five-day opening starting on a Wednesday of $200.1 million that "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" set last month.

After the big late-night start, however, "Half-Blood Prince" quickly settled into a box-office performance that almost mirrored "Order of the Phoenix." After accounting for a rise in ticket prices of about  8% over the last two years, the remaining advantage for the new film can be attributed to earnings from its midnight debut.

It seems, in other words, that as the devoted fan base for the series has aged over the years, there are more teenagers and young adults eager to wait in line for the first shows. But beyond them, Warners' huge market campaign essentially brought out the same audience that came to the last "Harry Potter" movie.

The audience for "Half-Blood Prince" was slightly older than for previous films in the series but, otherwise, nearly identical. Once again, audiences loved the movie, giving it an average grade of "A-," according to market research firm CinemaScore. The picture is likely on its way to a final gross similar to that of "Order of the Phoenix": $292 million domestically and $646.2 million overseas.

Universal and financier Media Rights Capital felt the pain of a bad audience reaction as "Bruno" plummeted 73% on its second weekend. That's the biggest drop for any film this year and more evidence, along with the CinemaScore of "C," that moviegoers simply don't like the second partially improvised farce from Sacha Baron Cohen.

Still, "Bruno" has grossed $49.6 million domestically and $46 million overseas, a decent total given that Universal paid $42.5 million for distribution rights in the U.S. and most major foreign countries.

500DaysSummer Though no other new movies dared challenge "Harry Potter" nationwide this weekend, "500 Days of Summer" had a fantastic start at 27 theaters in 10 cities. The indie romantic comedy sold $837,500 worth of tickets, giving it a strong average of $31,000 at each location. According to Sheila DeLoach, senior vice president of distribution for Fox Searchlight, the picture sold out nearly every show at its four theaters in Los Angeles.

Next weekend, it expands to a total of about 80 theaters in 17 new cities. "500 Days" will continue to grow from there until it's playing across the country on Aug. 7.

Summit Entertainment's war drama "The Hurt Locker" also continues to perform solidly in limited release, having earned $2.2 million over four weeks, during which it has expanded to a total of 93 theaters.

Here's a list of the top 10 movies at the box office in the U.S. and Canada, based on data provided by the studios and Hollywood.com:

1. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (Warner Bros.): $79.5 million for the weekend, $159.7 million since it opened Wednesday.

2. "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (Fox): $17.7 million, down only 36% despite the competition for families from "Harry Potter." Domestic gross is now $152 million.

3. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (Paramount): $13.75 million, down 43% on its fourth weekend. Domestic total is $363.9 million.

4. "Bruno" (Universal/Media Rights Capital): Plummeted 73% on its second weekend to $8.4 million. Total ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada are $49.6 million.

5. "The Hangover" (Warner Bros./Legendary): Continues to hold on very strong, dropping only 16% to $8.3 million on its seventh weekend. Domestic total: $235.9 million.

6. "The Proposal" (Disney): Also showing strength at the box office, the romantic comedy fell just 22% on its fifth weekend to $8.3 million. Total ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada are $128.1 million.

7. "Public Enemies" (Universal/Relativity): $7.6 million on its third weekend, a drop of 45%. Domestic total: $79.5 million.

8. "Up" (Disney): $3.1 million, down 33% on its eighth weekend. The latest Pixar animated feature has grossed $279.6 million in the U.S. and Canada.

9. "My Sister's Keeper" (Warner Bros./New Line): Declined 34% on its fourth weekend to $2.8 million. Total ticket sales domestically: $41.5 million.

10. "I Love You, Beth Cooper" (Fox): $2.7 million, a drop of 46% on its second weekend. Domestic total is $10.3 million.

-- Ben Fritz

RELATED:

'Harry Potter' opens to $58.4 million; evening slowdown keeps it from beating 'Transformers' [Updated with international ticket sales]

Harry Potter breaks Hollywood's midnight ticket sales record

Photos: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opens in L.A.

Review: Kenneth Turan on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Read more "Harry Potter" coverage on Hero Complex

Photos, from top: Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." Credit: Warner Bros. Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "500 Days of Summer." Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight Pictures

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