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Box office: 'Harry Potter' hits new heights, Russell Crowe flops [Updated]

November 21, 2010 |  9:42 am

HarryPotterDeathly Harry Potter has cast his biggest opening-weekend spell yet, thanks largely to fans who rushed to midnight screenings late Thursday.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" sold $125.2 million of tickets this weekend, according to an estimate from Warner Bros. That's 23% higher than the previous biggest first weekend for a "Potter" film, though ticket prices have risen over the years and the last two sequels opened on a Wednesday, not a Friday. Also, the new movie benefited by playing in more digital and large-format theaters, which carry higher ticket prices.

The only other new movie to open nationwide, the Russell Crowe thriller "The Next Three Days," flopped, debuting to a weak $6.75 million. That's the worst start for a movie starring Crowe since the 2006 bomb "A Good Year."

For "Deathly Hallows," Saturday and Sunday ticket sales were nearly identical to the last series entry to start on a Friday, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which launched in November 2005. The major difference came from Thursday's midnight shows, when the new film raked in $24 million, compared with $6 million for "Goblet of Fire." That accounted for $18 million of the $22-million advantage for this year's picture.

That reflects changing moviegoing habits as it has become increasingly common in the past five years for moviegoers to rush to see a film as early as possible, noted Warner domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman.

It also shows the changing demographics of the Potter audience, as more fans are now old enough to see the movie late at night rather than in a matinee. About 25% of the audience for "Deathly Hallows" was between 18 and 35, compared with 10% for "Goblet of Fire."

Despite the bigger start, the new movie appears likely to continue the trend of slightly increasing total grosses for the "Potter" movies. 2009's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" ended up collecting $301 million in the U.S. and Canada and Fellman said "Deathly Hallows" is on track to end up with between $300 million and $325 million.

It remains to be seen how the movie will perform overseas, as foreign receipts weren't immediately available Sunday morning. [Update, 12:25 p.m.: For international results of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," see our follow-up post.]

However, Warner seems assured of another very profitable entry in the "Potter" series, on which the studio has recently been spending about $250 million to produce each picture and $150 million more for worldwide advertising and prints.

Next3Days Lionsgate, meanwhile, will probably lose money on "The Next Three Days," which cost about $35 million to produce and an additional $28 million for domestic marketing. The studio is hopeful it will play decently for another few weeks as the mostly adult audience that came out gave the film an average grade of B+. But after such a weak start, hit status is out of reach for the picture, which was written and directed by Paul Haggis ("Crash").

It's the latest in a string of box-office disappointments for Crowe, coming on top of this past spring's "Robin Hood," last year's "State of Play" and 2008's "Body of Lies."

 Among returning pictures, the low-budget science-fiction film "Skyline" took a huge tumble, dropping 71% on its second weekend to $3.4 million. That's the second-largest drop for any movie this year, behind only this summer's "Predators." The Denzel Washington-Chris Pine thriller "Unstoppable" enjoyed a relatively modest decline of only 42% to $13.1 million on its second weekend.

The indie drama "127 Hours," starring James Franco, expanded to 107 theaters on its third weekend and posted a solid if not huge gross of $915,206, bringing its total to $1.9 million.

[Updated, 12:24 p.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, along with foreign grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1" (Warner Bros.): Opened to $125.1 million domestically, $205 million overseas in 54 foreign markets.

2. "Megamind" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $16.2 million on its third weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $109.5 million.

3. "Unstoppable" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $13.1 million on its second weekend, down 42%. Domestic total: $42 million. $7.5 million overseas in 41 foreign markets. International total: $32 million.

4. "Due Date" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $9.2 million on its third weekend, down 41%. Domestic total: $72.7 million.

5. "The Next Three Days" (Lionsgate): Opened to $6.75 million.

6. "Morning Glory" (Paramount): $5.2 million on its second weekend, down 43%. Domestic total: $19.9 million.

7. "Skyline" (Relativity/Rogue/Universal): $3.4 million on its second weekend, down 71%. Domestic total: $17.6 million.

8. "Red" (Summit): $2.5 million on its sixth weekend, down 50%. Domestic total: $83.6 million.

9. "For Colored Girls..." (Lionsgate): $2.4 million on its third weekend, down 63%. Domestic total: $34.5 million.

10. "Fair Game" (River Road/Participant/Imagenation/Summit): $1.5 million on its third weekend, up 44% as it expanded from 175 theaters to 386. Domestic total: $3.8 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Related:

'Harry Potter' rakes in $24 million from midnight shows, falls short of 'Twilight'

Hero Complex coverage of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'

Photos, from top: Daniel Radcliffe in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1." Credit: Warner Bros. Elizabeth Banks and Russell Crowe in "The Next Three Days." Credit: Phil Caruso /  Lionsgate

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