Final "Harry Potter" wields big wand at box office

Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:21pm EDT
 
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Harry Potter's final film adventure has bolted to a big start at worldwide box offices, breaking the record for midnight screenings in the U.S. and Canada with $43.5 million and setting the stage for a massive weekend debut.

Internationally, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" has sold $82.5 million in tickets since Wednesday, when it opened in dozens of countries, distributor Warner Bros. said on Friday.

Combined, Thursday's midnight screenings in domestic theaters and the two-day total overseas gives "Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" a total of $126 million globally so far. The film begins is wide release in the U.S. and Canada on Friday.

Box office watchers predict domestic (U.S. and Canada) sales for the three-day weekend will hit $125 million to $150 million, but with the midnight record that range could be low. Even if the box office total hits that forecast, it would be the highest-grossing "Harry Potter" debut and put the movie within striking distance of the biggest opening weekend ever.

The record belongs to 2008 Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," which collected $158.4 million in its initial three-days.

"Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" is the eighth and final movie in the "Harry Potter" franchise and the first in 3D. It also is showing on large format IMAX screens, and sold a record $2 million for a midnight IMAX opening, according to Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Inc.

The earlier films have generated more than $6.4 billion in ticket sales since the first movie a decade ago, plus billions more from DVDs and merchandise. The movies are based on novels by British author J.K. Rowling.

Loyal fans eager to say farewell are expected to drive big numbers for the conclusion of the battle between good and evil in a fantasy world of witchcraft. Moviegoers, some sporting "Potter"-inspired costumes, lined up at theaters for the first showings and events coordinated with the film's debut.

Many early screenings were sold out before the movie opened.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

 
<p>Crowds line up to be the first to see the new Harry Potter movie "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" at a minute after midnight in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, California July 14, 2011. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas</p>