'Harry Potter' opens to $58.4 million; evening slowdown keeps it from beating 'Transformers' [Updated with international ticket sales]
More muggles may have turned out at midnight, but in the end there were more "Transformers" gearheads.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" sold $58.38 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada on its opening day Wednesday, according to Warner Bros. That number blows away the previous biggest opening day in the series based on the books about a young British wizard, $44.2 million for "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" in July 2007. According to several executives who closely follow box office, it also sets up the new film for a huge domestic five-day opening of a little less than $200 million by Sunday. It probably will earn about that much or more from international territories, for which opening-day grosses aren't available yet.
As a result, "Half-Blood Prince," which cost $250 million to produce and $155 million to market and distribute worldwide, probably will be yet another profitable series entry for Warner.
Opening day for the sixth "Potter" film wasn't quite big enough to be the biggest Wednesday of all time, however. That record still resides with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which opened to $62 million on June 24. It initially appeared that "Harry" could take the crown when it earned a record-breaking $22 million from midnight shows Wednesday and was outpacing "Transformers" during matinees.
However, evening shows weren't quite as packed as those earlier in the day. Apparently after the rabid "Harry Potter" fans came to the first batch of shows late at night and families attended matinees, the more general audience that would have come for opening-day evening shows wasn't quite as big for "Half-Blood Prince" as for "Transformers."
As a result, it's now unlikely, although still possible, that "Half-Blood Prince" will best the $200.1 million that "Transformers" earned in its first five days, or the record $203.8 million earned by "The Dark Knight" in its first five days.
Update (12:20 PM): "Harry" launched in 48 foreign countries on Wednesday and exceeded the opening of its predescessor by an even bigger margin than it did domestically.
"Half-Blood Prince" sold $48.9 million worth of tickets overseas yesterday, 43% more than "Order of the Phoenix" last year in the same countries.
The opening was particularly huge in Holland and Brazil, where "Potter" scored the biggest opening day of all time, as well as the U.K. and Australia, where it was the third biggest ever.
The picture started in every major foreign country moviegoing territory Wednesday except for Argentina, Mexico and Russia, where it debuts today.
Comparing overall international openings between films is difficult, as they often start in different countries at different times. But according to Warner Bros, the worldwide opening day gross for "Half-Blood Prince" of $104 million is the biggest ever, not accounting for ticket price inflation.
Update (2:15 PM): Warner Bros. has made a slight adjustment to the film's Wednesday domestic gross. The final figure is $58.174 million.
Update (3:05 PM): Opening day overseas wasn't as big for "Half-Blood Prince" compared to "Order of the Phoenix" as Warner indicated. A studio executive called back to correct the initial figure given to the Times that the new film grossed 43% more than the last one in the same countries. In fact, the advantage was only 11%.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: Lauren Poissant, 19, dressed as Hagrid, waits at Universal CityWalk to watch the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" late Tuesday night. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.