It’s already the biggest franchise in movie history, but the final Harry Potter film is poised to shatter more box office records when it opens this weekend.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” will almost certainly break the record for biggest worldwide opener ever -- the $236 million benchmark set by “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” two years ago.
With a little bit of magic, the Warner Bros. release may even best the $158.4 million “The Dark Knight” made in 2008, and become the biggest domestic debut in history.
As it stands, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is on pace to bank north of $150 million domestically, based on studio tracking. It will debut in 4,375 locations, many of which are already reporting sold-out midnight and 3 a.m. screenings.
Adding extra gravy to Warner Bros. box-office feast, many of those ticket prices will come at a premium, as "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" will hit 3,000 3D screens.
Internationally, Potter will premiere on 19,500 screens in 59 foreign territories such as Russia, Australia and Italy this weekend. It already earned $43.6 million in foreign territories on Wednesday.
“It’s nice to go out on top,” Dan Fellman, distribution president for Warner Bros., told TheWrap. “This is the greatest and largest franchise in the history of the motion picture business. It’s been a great ride.”
Parts 1 and 2 of “Deathly Hallows” were filmed at a cost of roughly $250 million, essentially giving Warner Bros. a license to print money off the profits it will bank over the upcoming weekend.
Yet saying goodbye to the series, which provided an anchor for the studio’s film slates nearly every year for the past decade, won’t be easy.
“It’s a very bittersweet time,” Fellman told TheWrap. “What’s made this movie so special is that many of the fans who went to see the first movie holding the hands of their moms are the same fans driving to midnight shows tonight. This is more than a motion picture, it’s a cultural phenomenon.”
While next summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and upcoming Superman reboot “Man of Steel” have the potential to keep cash registers ringing at the studio, the absence of the bespectacled wizard will be keenly felt. It seems doubtful that author J.K. Rowling will relent and revisit Hogwarts to chart Potter’s progress into middle age or senility, giving Warner Bros. future opportunities to spin off fresh Potter films.
The Potter films have already made $6.37 billion worldwide, and bolstered by strong reviews and an uptick on 3D ticket prices, it seems likely that the final installment could add $1 billion to that take.
Though Potter seems likely to dominate this box-office Quidditch match, Walt Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” is hoping to put a few points on the board, too. The animated film is on pace to gross between $6 to $8 million over the weekend on 2,405 screens.
“We’re hopeful,” Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of distribution, told TheWrap. “It’s been testing well and critics love it, but there’s another small British author’s film in the marketplace that getting some attention.”
Also opening this weekend in limited release are the Errol Morris documentary “Tabloid” and the Wayne Wang’s adaptation of the best-selling book “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”
Not to mention "The Undefeated," the rightwing documentary about Sarah Palin's political rise that will roll-out in 10 AMC locations peppered across Tea Party country.
It's already sold out a showing in Grapevine, Texas.