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Final "Harry Potter" Set for a Magical Opening

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Box office predictions for the weekend of July 15-17, 2011.

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This weekend, arguably the most anticipated film of the year opens: Warner Bros.' (TWX) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the grand finale of the epic series. Fans have been anticipating this film for a decade since the first film opened back in November of 2001 and it is reflected in the huge pre-sales for the film. As of Wednesday, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is responsible for a staggering 91% of Fandango's daily ticket sales. The only studio brave enough to open a film against the mighty Potter is Disney (DIS) which is releasing the traditionally animated Winnie the Pooh. After being down about 22% last weekend in comparison to 2010, the box office will surge ahead this weekend. Based on my estimates, the Top 10 will generate $226.4 million this weekend, up about 25.3% from last year when Warner Bros.' Inception led the overall Top 10 to a gross of $169.2 million.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is perhaps the most anticipated film of the year (and possibly the decade) and is the only film to be released this summer that is all but guaranteed to gross $300 million (Paramount (VIA) and DreamWorks (DWA) Transformers: Dark of the Moon will reach this milestone but it was far from a guarantee). The last film in the series opened with $125.0 million (a franchise record) and went on to collect $294.6 million. The highest grossing film in the series remains the first installment, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone which collected a total of $317.6 million.

The Harry Potter series is perhaps the only franchise in history that has never shown any signs of audience erosion. Sure, the third film The Prisoner of Azkaban grossed a series low of $249.5 million but it was also the first film in the series to have to deal with summer competition. Since then, every film has come within striking distance of $300 million. Although the last film in the series didn't quite make it to the $300 million mark, Part 2 should have no trouble at all crossing the triple century mark for a few reasons.

It is likely that Part 1 of Deathly Hallows tapered out before the $300 million mark because more casual fans of the series wanted to wait until Part 2 was out before seeing it. This time around, those casual fans of the series will more than likely be swept up in the excitement of the final film and see it in theaters. Deathly Hallows Part 2 will also be in 3D which will help goose the overall gross of the film. The film wasn't shot in 3D and instead was converted, but because it is the first and last time fans will get to see a Potter film in 3D (unless of course Warner Bros. decides to convert them all and re-release them), they will embrace the format and gladly pay the premium surcharge.

The film hasn't even been released yet and it is already breaking records. According to Variety, as of noon on Wednesday, the film has already grossed $32 million in pre-sales. The film is also launching in a record-breaking 3000 3D locations (4250 3D screens) and is also debuting on a record 274 IMAX (IMAX) screens nationwide. It remains to be seen whether Deathly Hallow Part 2 can best the opening weekend record established in 2008 by The Dark Knight ($158.4 million) or the opening day record set by The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72.7 million). Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be massively front-loaded so it is unlikely that Potter will be able to knock Batman off his throne, but it may very well eclipse New Moon. One thing seems very clear: Deathly Hallows Part 2 will probably be among the top five opening weekends of all time. Here's a look at the current Top 5.



Although there will be some competition from Transformers' third weekend and Captain America and Cowboys and Aliens in the weeks ahead, Potter's fans are very loyal. Whether they are interested in other films in the marketplace or not, they will most certainly be buying a ticket to what conceivably will be the movie event of the decade. Based on that and the 3D surcharges, Deathly Hallows Part 2 will most likely improve upon Part 1's opening by about 15%. Based on that logic, when it is all said and done, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will not only hold the series record for biggest opening, it will likely become the highest grossing film in the series. I expect the boy wizard to conjure up an opening of about $144 million.

The second new release for the weekend is Disney's animated Winnie the Pooh. We all know about Winnie and all his friends (Piglet, Roo, Owl, Eeyore, etc.) so to be honest there isn't all that much to say about this film. Winnie the Pooh is a timeless character that is loved by toddlers everywhere, but his reach doesn't extend past 5-year-olds. Any kids over that age will likely not be interested in seeing the film and would rather spend their time watching Sony's (SNE) Zookeeper or Cars 2.

It is nice to see Disney release another Winnie the Pooh adventure, but they probably would've gotten better traction with it if they animated the characters in CGI versus using the classic hand drawn technique. Had they used a modern take on the classic characters, it is possible that older kids may have been enticed by the film. Most parents will gladly take their toddlers to Pooh's latest adventure, but many may choose to sit it out because there are so many other Winnie the Pooh cartoons available on DVD.

There hasn't been a new Pooh film in theaters in nearly 6 years and the last three didn't exactly set the box office on fire. The Tigger Movie, released in 2000, fared the best at the box office, opening with $9.4 million and bouncing its way to a final gross of $45.5 million. The other two didn't do as well; 2003's Piglet's Big Movie opened with $6.1 million and finished with $23.1 million while 2005's Pooh's Heffalump Movie debuted with $5.8 million and exited theaters with only $18.1 million. Based on the brand recognition of the title alone, Winnie the Pooh should perform slightly better than the other films but it will face way more competition in the marketplace than those films did. I am predicting that Pooh and friends will fill the honey pot with about $8.5 million this weekend.

To see the rest of my predictions for the weekend, check out the chart below.

Weekend Release Schedule, 2011 vs. 2010


All debuting titles for the weekend are in red.





Based on my estimates for the Friday to Sunday period, total box office will be up about 25.3% from 2010.

Source: the-numbers.com, HSX, filmgo.net, imdb.com


Editor's Note: Bill Bonfanti writes daily as Box Office Analyst and Film Critic for FilmGo.net. Visit FilmGo to view the latest box office news, movie trailers and more.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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