Image Credit: Jaap BuitendijkLet’s get straight to it: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 will make a massive amount of money this weekend. We’re talking about a franchise that has accumulated $5.4 billion worldwide, is based on a book series that’s sold more copies than there are people in America, has spawned its own theme park, and has turned innumerable young adults into this. Even if you have no intention of seeing Deathly Hallows, it will one day track you down like a Dementor and pry your eyelids open as if you were Malcolm McDowell. And the box office is due for a huge weekend — there hasn’t been a behemoth opening weekend since June, when Toy Story 3 collected $110.3 million. (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which debuted on a Wednesday, grossed $157.6 million its first five days). So the tricky question for Deathly Hallows is: “How much, exactly?” The movie, which is the seventh in the series, could conceivably earn anywhere from $100 million to $160 million this weekend. In such situations, I find it best to take the middle path, hence my prediction:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1: $130 million
Ready for some numbers? As I write this, Fandango is reporting that more than 3,000 showtimes across the country have already sold out, and that Deathly Hallows has sold more advance tickets than any other Harry Potter movie (and the third most advance tickets ever, behind The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse). Deathly Hallows opens at midnight tonight at about 3,700 theaters, many of which are playing the film on multiple screens and adding showings as late as 3:15 a.m. And the movie will play on 239 IMAX screens domestically — by far the most in IMAX history.
As far as comparing Deathly Hallows to other Harry Potter flicks, we should examine 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which also opened in November and, more importantly, on a Friday. Goblet grossed $102.7 million its first weekend, and Deathly Hallows should easily squash that amount thanks to an increase in ticket prices, additional IMAX theaters, and the fact that this is the series’ final entry — well, part one of its final entry. Due to the Thursday midnight screenings, Deathly Hallows will also tally a truly enchanting Friday figure and then witness a sizable drop on Saturday. With that in mind, could Deathly Hallows break the opening-day record of $72.7 million currently held by The Twilight Saga: New Moon? It’s possible, but I think Potter will fly a bit short of that number.
2. Megamind: $17 million
The animated comedy will continue to attract families with children who are too young to see the PG-13 Deathly Hallows, so expect a mild drop of about 42 percent.
3. Unstoppable: $13 million
The Denzel Washington runaway-train thriller, which has topped the charts during the workweek, will serve as excellent counter-programming for the adults who have somehow managed to deflect Harry Potter‘s charms. Like Megamind, the Tony Scott film should slip around 42 percent.
4. The Next Three Days: $11 million
Oh, right, there’s another new wide release this weekend. The PG-13 thriller stars Russell Crowe as a professor determined to break his wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of prison. The $30 million film, directed by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis (Crash), has garnered mediocre reviews, but Crowe is a dependable, if not giant, box-office draw. During the next three days, The Next Three Days is likely to follow in the footsteps of State of Play and Body of Lies, which debuted to $14.1 million and $12.9 million, respectively.
5. Due Date: $8 million
The R-rated comedy, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, fell 53 percent its second weekend. It should hold up a little better this weekend — let’s say a drop of just under 50 percent and call it a day.