Get Ready for the Biggest ‘Potter’ Opening Yet

Predicted to take in more than $135 million its first weekend, sequel’s tracking is “so astronomical, the models are breaking down” says one rival-studio executive

Audiences clearly aren't getting tired of Harry.

Warner's seventh "Harry Potter" installment, "The Deathly Hallows Part 1," is on track for the franchise's biggest opening yet, with some estimates pegging the film's initial three-day haul at over $135 million.

"The tracking is so astronomical, the models are breaking down," said one rival-studio spokesman.

Meanwhile, pre-sales are going through the roof, with the film registering the fifth-highest number of advanced sales on MovieTickets.com. Fandango reported that the movie has sold out 2,200 of its midnight showtimes.

"Potter's" previous best start came for "Goblet of Fire," with the fourth J.K. Rowling fantasy-novel adaptation opening to $102.7 million in June 2005.

The new "Potter" film opens in more than 3,600 midnight locations Friday, with Warner adding a few more 3 a.m. locations.

Warner distribution chief Dan Fellman downplayed the record talk, noting, "One hundred million would be a very good accomplishment."

But with one tracking firm reporting Monday that 94 percent of the moviegoing public is aware that "Deathly Hallows 1" comes out Friday, Fellman conceded that the all-telling "awareness" indicator is a bit higher than previous "Potter" installments.

A hot start would put the film on pace to challenge the $974.7 million worldwide box office figure, set by the original "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" back in 2001.

With that film shot for $125 million, this latest "Potter" installment likely won't be as profitable, however.

Warner officials say shooting parts 1 and 2 of "Deathly Hallows" (the second part comes out in July) kept cost below the more than $250 million that was spent on 2009's "Half-Blood Prince."

But the "Deathly Hallows" shoot had its challenges, with a 250-day production schedule overshot to a total of 478 days. 

There were notable mishaps, such as an onset accident that paralyzed star Daniel Radcliffe's stunt double.

There was also the abandoned attempt to convert the film to 3D, a gambit that set the production back around $10 million, according to one studio official.

Then there's prints and advertising, which — due to the normal factors of inflation — should be pricier than the $155 million figure Warner spent last year to release "Half-Blood Prince" worldwide.

Fellman also downplayed the impact of this expense.

"The awareness of this movie should take care of itself, so we don't have to market to excess," he noted.