Armed with but an outstretched twig and smudged glasses, Harry Potter has managed to rob his heat-packing fellow Brit, James Bond. And here's how he did it:
At 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince became the best midnight opener ever in U.S. box-office history, netting $22.2 million. If the numbers hold, the "sixquel" in the series is on its way to becoming the best overall Wednesday opening and having one of the best opening weekends of all time. The film sold more advance tickets than any other Potter, and finished only behind Star Wars: Episode III in all-time advance ticket sales. Worldwide and unadjusted for inflation, this means the wizard will wrest top-franchise honors from Bond, whose 23 films have taken in a total of $5.074 billion worldwide (before Half-Blood Prince, Potter held just under $4.5 billion).
Domestically, the Potter franchise trails the Star Wars films ($1.9 billion), the Bond movies ($1.6 billion), and the Batman series—the seven films since Tim Burton's 1989 reboot have earned $1.45 billion to Potter's $1.41 billion—but Potter is predicted to blow past all three franchises with HP6's run. And analysts say the ceiling on Potter's opening cash hasn't yet been reached, with the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, being split into two films. "When franchises come to a close, especially franchises of this nature, that final picture has a chance at being one of the highest-grossing of the series," says Brandon Gray, president and publisher of Box Office Mojo, a box-office tracking site.
But how long can the wizard wield the prize? As long as he wants, says Rotten Tomatoes editor in chief Matt Atchity. Star Wars is a nonthreat, "short of Lucas making good on that long, long ago promise of doing three more movies," he says. The Lord of the Rings, the Oscar-winning franchise for which directors Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro are cooking up more films, doesn't have the same "broad-based appeal." And for future Batman installments, Gray says that The Dark Knight's massive success isn't likely to repeat itself, as that movie's record-setting attendance was propelled by the tragic death of one of its stars.
Still, 40 years, 23 films, 6 actors, and countless dollars have proved that Bond, while not the most consistent franchise quality-wise, is the most resilient—kind of like Voldemort. "In 10 or 12 years, when there's another three or four Bond movies out, Bond may take the title back—the only strong contender [to beat Potter] is going to be Bond," Atchity says."He's the only one that could possibly take that title back. There's more life in that character."
There's a potential wrench for Potter, also, in splitting the final two films—a tactic that Gray says has a checkered past in movie history. "One would hope that each movie is self-contained, because that's the ideal route to success," he says. "If it's totally dependent on the follow-up, that'll be tricky."
Otherwise, Harry, welcome to the penthouse.