Box office competition cleared out of the way this weekend, and “Harry Potter” took full advantage.
Warner Bros' sixth film in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” got off to a franchise-record $159.7 million five-day start in North America, according to studio figures.
That tally bests 2007’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($139.7 million after five days) as the franchise's best launch.
On Saturday, the sixth “Potter” movie, which has enjoyed some of the series' best reviews, added another $29.2 million to its domestic tally playing in 4,325 theaters. Its three-day weekend performance stands at $79.5 million.
“Potter’s” success overshadowed the struggles of Universal’s “Bruno,” which fell 73% from its $30.6 million opening to finish the weekend in fourth place with $8.4 million. Its North American total after two weeks stands at $49.6 million.
It’s been a rather conspicuous fall for the raunchy R-rated comedy, which premiered strongly on Friday, July 10 to $14.4 million before tumbling 40% to $8.8 million the following day.
Universal domestic distribution president Nikki Rocco compared “Bruno” to, of all things, Disney’s “Hannah Montana The Movie,” which got out to a $32.3 million three-day opener in April but fell 59% the following weekend.
“This played very much like a concert film” Rocco said. “You get a huge opening from the core audience, and that’s where it ends up. But this picture is still going to be very profitable for us. You can’t just look at the steep fall. This week, we’re going to pass $100 million worldwide.”
In 2007, Universal acquired domestic and eight territories’ worth of foreign rights on “Bruno” from Media Rights Capital for $42.5 million. Another $55 million was spent to market the movie globally.
However, regardless of its profitability, “Bruno’s” ultimate fate will undoubtedly belie expectations for it.
Although it was compared favorably by some critics to creator and star Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat,” the sexually charged follow-up’s domestic box-office trajectory is nothing like that 2006 film, which actually grew 7% at the box office to $28.5 million for its second weekend on the way to grossing $260 million.
The steep descent has already rendered “Bruno” the prototype for a modern box-office ruled by Twitter and various other forms instantaneous communication, one in which poor word-of-mouth (“Bruno,” for example, suffered from a poor “C” CinemaScore ranking) travels faster than ever.
“In the end, it doesn’t make a difference -- our goal was to make a profit,” Rocco added. “We’re not crying over here.”
Meanwhile, finishing in second place at the domestic box office in its third week of release, Fox’s first 3D movie, the animated “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” registered $17.7 million for the three-day period, a 36% week-to-week drop, bringing its North American cume to $152 million.
The third “Ice Age” has taken in more than $360 million internationally, and more than $514 million globally, and remains on pace to usurp 2006 franchise installment “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” which took $652 million worldwide.
Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” placed third with a $13.8 million weekend, a 44% week-to-week decline, putting its four-week North American total at $363.9 million.
In fifth and sixth place respectively, Disney’s “The Proposal” and Warner’s “The Hangover” continue to show strong gender-targeted legs.
Paired at many venues with hot-selling sneak peaks of Sony’s similarly femme-targeted “The Ugly Truth,” “The Proposal” dropped only 22% in its fifth week of release, taking in $8.3 million and bringing its cume to $128.1 million.
The guy-targeted “Hangover,” meanwhile, declined only 16%, bringing in $8.3 million on the way to a $235.9 million seven-week cume.
Indie-wise, Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker” added $764,000 over the weekend playing at 93 theaters to bring its four-week total to $2.2 million. The film will expand its run to more than 200 theaters next weekend.
Also on the indie front, Fox Searchlight romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer” opened to $837,588 at 27 locations.
At that time, the big box-office story will still probably revolve around “Potter,” which is contending to hit the magical $1 billion mark for the first time in franchise history.
The remarkably consistent Warner Bros series has produced four previous films that have taken in more than $900 million worldwide and more than $600 million internationally.
The only installment that failed to reach that benchmark was “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” at ($795.6 worldwide).
For the latest “Potter,” which reportedly cost $250 million to produce and another $155 million to market worldwide, domestic 3D runs haven’t even started. Those are set to begin July 29, once screen commitments to “Transformers” expire.