'Potter' Targets Foreign Opening Record

While its domestic release is receiving much of the attention right now, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is also set to debut on 19,500 screens in 59 foreign territories this weekend. The Harry Potter series has to this point been remarkably consistent overseas, and the finale should see a boost from 3D premiums and final chapter anticipation that will allow it to at least come close to setting new foreign and worldwide opening records.

So far, the Harry Potter series has generated over $6.37 billion worldwide (domestic plus foreign), with foreign alone accounting for a huge $4.36 billion of that. Only 16 movies have ever made over $600 million overseas, and six of those are Harry Potter movies (Prisoner of Azkaban is the outlier with $546.1 million). With $660 million, Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the highest-grossing entry in the series overseas, though the first movie remains the top Potter movie worldwide at $974.7 million.

The Harry Potter opening weekend record is held by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which debuted to $236 million at the same time two years ago. Deathly Hallows Part 1 started with $205 million last November, though that decline was in large part due to deferred releases in key territories like France and South Korea. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is opening in all major territories besides China (Aug. 4) this weekend, and will absolutely score a higher debut than Part 1. In fact, if it were to see identical attendance levels across the same territories, it would be looking at an opening in the $220 million range without even factoring 3D premiums. 

Around half of Deathly Hallows Part 2's screens will be in 3D, which makes it the first Harry Potter movie to be offered in the format. While domestic audiences have seemingly cooled on 3D, foreign moviegoers continue to turn out in droves for 3D movies: 66 percent of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides's initial grosses came from 3D presentations, and that number went up to 70 percent for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Modestly estimating a 60 percent 3D share for Deathly Hallows Part 2 brings the opening up to $250 million (assuming a 25 percent 3D premium). It's also playing on 121 IMAX 3D screens (up from 104 IMAX screens for Deathly Hallows Part 1), which should notably contribute to the 3D share. 

Add in the fact that Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the action-packed, definitive finale to the decade-old franchise, and attendance should also see a minor improvement over Part 1. The current foreign opening record is $260.4 million set by On Stranger Tides in May. Based on the information available, it looks like Deathly Hallows Part 2 has a very good chance of opening higher. The movie debuts today in Russia, France, Italy and Australia, followed by Germany and South Korea on Thursday and the United Kingdom, Japan, Brazil, Mexico and Spain on Friday.

The worldwide (domestic plus foreign) opening weekend record is also within reach. Half-Blood Prince currently holds the top spot with $394 million. If Deathly Hallows Part 2 has a strong domestic opening (at least $135 million), it should become the new standard-bearer in this arena as well. 

Already this summer, On Stranger Tides leveraged 3D premiums to nearly $800 million in foreign ticket sales (for over $1 billion worldwide). It now looks as though Transformers 3 is set to follow suit. The Harry Potter franchise is certainly more popular than Transformers and is probably about even with Pirates, which all but guarantees that, before the summer is over, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will become the tenth $1 billion movie in history.

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