‘Harry Potter’ Has $330 Million Debut Weekend


LOS ANGELES — The seventh Harry Potter movie opened to a jaw-dropping $330 million in global ticket sales over the weekend, underscoring the magical powers of the Warner Brothers marketing and distribution departments.

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Brothers Pictures

The first “Deathly Hallows” film made $125 million in North America.

That brawny total easily made “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” No. 1 in North America, where the boy wizard generated an estimated $125.1 million. It was the second-biggest domestic opening for the Harry Potter franchise; adjusting for higher ticket prices, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” sold $127.4 million over its first three days in November 2005.

The strong results for the film, the penultimate in the franchise, reflect the continued popularity of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and “Deathly Hallows” also earned strong reviews.

But equally important was a yearlong, full-court press by Warner’s global marketing chief, Sue Kroll, to position “Deathly Hallows” as a must-see event for children and adults alike. The advertising campaign played up the sophisticated, darker elements of the plot. Harry and pals are now grown up, for instance, and the good-versus-evil battle is intensifying as the story line reaches its climax.

The marketing materials also injected some edge into the franchise by taking risks like identifying the film only by the letters “HP7” and splattering posters and billboards with what looked like blood; one poster depicted the Hogwarts castle in flames.

It paid off: about 25 percent of the North American audience for “Deathly Hallows” was in the 18-to-34-year-old demographic, according to Dan Fellman, Warner’s president of domestic distribution. In comparison, about 10 percent of the audience for the first film in the series came from that age bracket. Mr. Fellman noted that “Deathly Hallows” beat “Alice in Wonderland” to become the top opening movie in Imax history.

Imax showings on 239 screens accounted for $12.4 million of the domestic box office and contributed $16.6 million (on 340 screens) of the international gross. At its opening, “Alice” took in $12.1 million domestically from Imax and $15.3 million internationally.

“No other franchise has been able to age and expand the audience this way,” Mr. Fellman said.

Early last week, the first 36 minutes of “Deathly Hallows,” about a quarter of the movie, leaked onto the Internet, prompting a fresh round of hand-wringing about piracy and leading to some worries that the movie’s opening weekend would suffer as a result. Mr. Fellman said that the studio was investigating but that the pirated footage did not appear to hurt the release. (If anything, the news media coverage of the leak helped.)

The Harry Potter series will conclude with the 3-D release of the second half of “Deathly Hallows” on July 15. The franchise, overseen by Alan F. Horn, Warner’s chief operating officer, has generated some $6 billion at the global box office and billions more in DVD, television and merchandise sales.

The success of “Deathly Hallows” underscores just how big a hole Warner, owned by Time Warner, will have to fill once the series ends, box office analysts said.

The weekend was also big for “Tron: Legacy,” the forthcoming Walt Disney Studios release; that picture’s final trailer played before “Deathly Hallows” in a push by Disney to attract the broadest audience possible for the science-fiction adventure, which arrives in theaters on Dec. 17 after three years of marketing.

That pre-Christmas weekend promises to bring one of the more brutal box office battles of the year. Typically, rival studios would steer clear of a release as enormous as “Tron: Legacy.” But “Yogi Bear” (Warner), the James L. Brooks comedy “How Do You Know” (Sony Pictures Entertainment) and “The Fighter” (Paramount Pictures) will all enter the marketplace or expand to wide release on Dec. 17, setting up an intense showdown going into the crucial Christmas holiday.

DreamWorks Animation’s “Megamind” was second at the box office last weekend, selling about $16.2 million in North America in its third week in theaters for a new domestic total of $109.5 million, according to Hollywood.com, which compiles ticketing statistics. “Unstoppable,” a thriller about a runaway train, from 20th Century Fox, was third, with $13.1 million in its second week for a new total of about $42 million.

The Warner comedy “Due Date,” in its third week, was fourth with $9.2 million for a new total of $72.7 million.