Box Office Analysis: “Harry Potter” breaks records

With a wave of his magic wand, Harry Potter made $93.5 million disappear from moviegoers’ pockets this weekend.

The record-shattering arrival of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone represented a triumph for Warner Bros.’ production, marketing and distribution teams. It was clear as early as Saturday morning that Harry was going to rewrite Hollywood history.

Harry‘s Friday take of $31.6 million immediately gave it top honors for being the biggest grossing single day ever. That record had been held by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace, which opened to $28.5 million on May 19, 1999.

As insiders woke up Saturday morning to estimates of Friday’s business — Warners’ was estimating $31.3 million then — it was clear that no matter what happened Saturday and Sunday, Harry would do at least $90 million and quite possibly more for the weekend. That meant it would become the biggest three-day opening weekend ever as soon as the weekend was over. The previous record holder, Universal’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park, had grossed $72.1 million for the Friday to Sunday period of its opening over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in May 1997. Lost World did $92.7 million in its first four days of domestic theatrical release.

Harry appears to be on track to crack $100 million on Monday, its fourth day in release, which would make it the fastest film ever to reach that milestone. To do so, it will need to gross $6.5 million, or perhaps a little more than that depending on how Sunday’s ticket sales actually come in. Given that there are likely to be a lot of people who despite the record number of theaters (3,672) and screens (about 8,200 or approximately 25 percent of all domestic screens) couldn’t get in to see the film over the weekend and want to catch up with it quickly, Harry could enjoy a very strong Monday at the box office. The record for getting to $100 million fastest is currently held by Phantom Menace, which needed five days to get there.

With $93.5 million already in hand and the entire holiday season still ahead of it, Harry seems virtually certain to gross at least $300 million in domestic theaters.

In the face of Harry‘s mega-blockbuster impact on the marketplace, the Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar computer-animated blockbuster Monsters, Inc. fell sharply — grossing about $23 million, off 49 percent — as insiders had anticipated.

Nonetheless, Monsters is an unqualified success story for Disney/Pixar with nearly $157 million already under its box office belt. It went into the record books this weekend as the fastest animated film ever to hit $150 million, doing so in 17 days compared to the 18 days it took DreamWorks’ blockbuster Shrek to get there. With the holiday season on its way now, Monsters is heading for a domestic theatrical gross of $225 million or more.

Driven by Harry and Monsters, which together took in about $116.5 million, key films grossed a lively total of about $161 million, up 7.4 percent from last year’s $149.9 million when Universal’s opening of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas dominated the marketplace.

This year’s relatively modest percentage increase in the face of Harry‘s record-setting launch reflects the fact that last year there were stronger showings for the third, fourth and fifth ranking films on the chart, all of which did double digit ticket sales. This year’s fourth and fifth films were not nearly as successful.


Warner Bros.’ launch of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone materialized in first place with a magical ESTIMATED $93.52 million at 3,672 theaters ($25,467 per theater).

Directed by Chris Columbus, Harry stars Daniel Radcliffe in its title role.

Harry‘s average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.

Harry is the man,” Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.

“We were up a little more on Friday [than we thought yesterday] — $31.635 million for Friday,” Fellman noted. “$32.880 million for Saturday. And I’m projecting $29 million for Sunday.”

Focusing on the record books, he said, “Obviously, we’ve broken every single record of mankind. The principal ones are — It’s the largest non-holiday three day weekend, which (had been) Planet of the Apes at $68.5 million. It’s the largest three consecutive days ever, which belonged to Jurassic Park [The Lost World: Jurassic Park], which had a Memorial Day Sunday [and did] $72.1 million. The largest four days of all time was the same movie, which was $90.1 million.

“It’s obviously the largest Friday, which was Planet of the Apes at $24.6 million. The largest Saturday was Mummy Returns at $26.9 million. The largest Sunday with a holiday was Jurassic [Lost World] at $26 million. The largest Sunday without a holiday was Episode One [Star Wars: The Phantom Menace] at $21.9 million. The largest single day was [Phantom Menace‘s] $28.5 million, so every day [of Harry this weekend] beats that. It’s the largest three-day opening of the year. The largest single week was Star Wars [The Phantom Menace], which did $124 million. That’s (going to be) history.”

Looking ahead, Fellman pointed out, “This is a very big grossing Monday through Thursday [pre-Thanksgiving period]. It’s huge. Grinch, which did $55 million for the weekend [this time last year] did $30 million Monday through Thursday. They did $3.6 on Monday, $4.8 on Tuesday, $9.3 on Wednesday and $12 million on Thanksgiving Day. So we’re going to have a monster week.”

As for when Harry will hit $100 million, Fellman replied, “I’m hoping to hit it tomorrow. That’s the only record left. The fastest climb to $100 million was Star Wars [The Phantom Menace] in five days — $105 million in five days. I’m hoping we can get there on Monday. And, of course, the records we’ve broken already were the number of runs and the number of prints.”

Audiences are responding very well to the film, Fellman added: “Eight to 80, the kids love it. Parents love it. The exits are sensational. The recommendations are fantastic. Non-readers and readers, you name it, it’s just beautiful. You couldn’t write a better scenario for what happened here.”

Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios’ G rated computer animated feature Monsters, Inc. slid one slot to second place in its third week with, considering its new competition, an okay ESTIMATED $23.0 million (-49%) at 3,461 theaters (+192 theaters; $6,660 per theater). Its cume is approximately $156.7 million, heading for $225 million or more in domestic theaters.

Directed by Pete Docter, it was co-directed by Lee Unkrich and David Silverman and written by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson.

20th Century Fox’s PG-13 rated romantic comedy Shallow Hal slipped one peg to third place in its second week with a slimmer ESTIMATED $12.7 million (-44%) at 2,803 theaters (+33 theaters; $4,531 per theater). Its cume is approximately $41.3 million, heading for $75 million in domestic theaters.

Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black.

Paramount’s PG-13 rated thriller Domestic Disturbance held on to fourth place in its third week with a quieter ESTIMATED $5.6 million (-35%) at 2,881 theaters (-29 theaters; $1,944 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.9 million, heading for the $45 million.

Directed by Harold Becker, it stars John Travolta.

Franchise Pictures’ R rated thriller Heist, released through Warner Bros., held on to fifth place in its second week with a calmer ESTIMATED $4.67 million (-40%) at 1,891 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,470 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.0 million.

Written and directed by David Mamet, it stars Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito and Delroy Lindo.

Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures’ PG-13 rated sci-fi action adventure The One dropped three rungs to sixth place in its third week with a duller ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-54%) at 2,433 theaters (-461 theaters; $1,726 per theater). Its cume is approximately $38.4 million, heading for $50-55 million in domestic theaters.

Directed by James Wong, it stars Jet Li.

Universal and Intermedia Films’ PG-13 rated drama K-PAX fell one notch in its fourth week to seventh place with an uneventful ESTIMATED $3.27 million (-49%) at 2,325 theaters (-256 theaters; $1,405 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.5 million.

Directed by Iain Softley, it stars Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

Lions Gate Films’ opening of its R rated hip hop comedy The Wash failed to clean up with an ESTIMATED $3.0 million at 749 theaters ($4,005 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $3.9 million.

Written and directed by DJ Pooh, it stars Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.

New Line Cinema’s R rated drama Life as a House dipped one level to ninth place in its fourth week with a drafty ESTIMATED $2.73 million (-29%) at 1,288 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,116 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.1 million.

Directed by Irwin Winkler, it stars Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures’ fourth week of Thirteen Ghosts, a low budget Dark Castle Entertainment production, which was seventh last weekend, in its fourth week with a less scary ESTIMATED $2.19 million (-51%) at 1,627 theaters (-724 theaters; $1,346 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.7 million, heading for the low $40 millions in domestic theaters.

Directed by Steve Beck, it stars Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga and F. Murray Abraham.


This weekend also saw the arrival of Artisan Entertainment’s R rated dark comedy Novocaine to an unfunny ESTIMATED $0.43 million at 105 theaters ($4,120 per theater).

Directed by David Atkins, it stars Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter and Laura Dern.


There were no national sneak previews this weekend.


The expansion front this weekend saw Miramax Zoe Films’ R rated French comedy Amélie widen in its third week with an encouraging ESTIMATED $1.3 million at 183 theaters (+115 theaters; $7,926 per theater. Its cume is approximately $2.7 million.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.

USA Films’ R rated black and white drama The Man Who Wasn’t There went wider in its third week with a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.85 million (-17%) at 250 theaters (+81 theaters; $3,385 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.1 million.

Directed by Joel Coen and written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, it stars Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand.

Fox Searchlight’s R rated animated feature Waking Life expanded in its fifth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.25 million (-6%) at 92 theaters (+26 theaters; $2,717 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.

Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Life is a likely candidate in the new Best Animated Feature Oscar category.

“We have some modest expansions [upcoming] where we hope to get to a little past 100 [theaters],” Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. “The film is playing extremely well in some of the major cities and much more modestly in the small markets. It’s an urban movie and it’s a sophisticated college town film holding extremely well in cities like Cambridge and Berkeley, but less well in the smaller cities. We’ve held extremely well in Manhattan.

“I’m pleased that we’ve held our own against all these big [specialized] movies that have opened [such as The Man Who Wasn’t There from] the Coen Brothers and Amélie and Novocaine. There’s a lot of film in the market right now. This fall all these markets are getting very crowded. So we’re pleased that we’re holding our own with such a very challenging film like this, but there’s a core audience that’s very devoted to it. And we’re, of course, eyeing the Academy Awards and the chance to be the third animated feature [nominated for the new best animated feature category].”


Key films — those grossing more than $500,000 — took in approximately $161.03 million, up about 7.41 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $149.91 million.

This weekend’s key film gross was up about 32.69 percent from last weekend of this year, when key films took in approximately $121.35 million.

Last year, Universal’s first week of How The Grinch Stole Christmas was first with $55.82 million at 3,127 theaters ($17,851 per theater); and Paramount’s opening week of Rugrats In Paris — The Movie was second with $22.72 million at 2,934 theaters ($7,743 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $78.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $116.5 million.

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