Harry Potter and the ginormous filmgoing hordes (updated)

We’ve got an early and rather light box office preview this week because only one new wide release is coming out. However, it’s already looking to be a doozy. Yes, it’s time for another highly profitable trip to Hogwarts with today’s (actually early as possible this morning’s) release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Anyhow, word of highly boffo early ticket sales outpacing the midnight opening of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” has proven out. Estimates of the Wednesday morning midnight take are roughly $20 million, says Variety and Nikki Finke. THR‘s Carl DiOrio wrote yesterday of roughly a $140 million five day gross and $100 million weekend. However, perhaps taking the fact that the $20 million figure beats both the Wednesday midnight opening of “The Dark Knight” by $2 million and “Transformers” by $4 million, the diviners reporting to Finke are telling her to expect $175-190 million, but with a $90-$100 million weekend a la DiOrio.

[UPDATE: The midnight gross turned out to be an even more whopping, more record breaking $22.2 million. Nikki Finke is now talking about the possibility of the fantasy flick breaking the $200 million mark in its first five days.]

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma WatsonIt’s also worth noting that the IMAX release of the Potter film, with the 12-minute opening sequence in 3-D, is being delayed for a couple of weeks to allow “Transformers” to continue milking both the real and more common quasi-IMAX teat. Apparently the logic here is to get Potter maniacs to double dip, and there’s no reason to doubt that strategy as the dog days of summer descend.

Moreover, reviews are consistently good, generating a slightly higher 96% rating among Rotten Tomato’s Top Critics than among the 94% hoi polloi. Commercially speaking, this might mean nothing or it might mean  better “legs” for this one, and perhaps more appeal among older viewers. For comparison, the last Potter flick — which was a very decent movie, also from director David Yates, and obviously did very well at the box office — flipped the RT digits in that 96%, rating a mere 69%. Ironically, I haven’t actually read any reviews all the way through, not even the four-star review of our own David Medsker. I’m still only halfway through the book and we know how stuff that happens ten minutes into a movie, that occurs 300 pages into a book, tend to get find its way into reviews. I did, however, notice that David criticized the film’s surprising PG rating. I wrote about this here last week, and it does seem like a potential issue for some parents and kids.

As for competition, there really isn’t that much. In theory, “Brüno” should come in #2 by default, and I guess likely will. However, as our own disappointed Gerardo Orlando posted last night, less than steller Twitter posts (and presumably texts, e-mails, and that thing where people talk to each other over phones or, you know, in person) might have been responsible for the film’s heavy drop in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday night last week. If it continues without a pro-Brüno backlash, the Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle — which was always going to appeal to a fairly select audience — could sink further. On the other hand, a fairly low budget means that the film will still probably net everyone a nice payday. Nevertheless, it may well be time for Sacha Baron Cohen to consider the possibility that he’s simply too well known to keep making stunt comedies. It’s a limiting form in any case, and perhaps it’s time do a pure fiction comedy. I have a feeling he might be good at that, too.

That’s it. As far as I can tell, the only significant limited release this Friday will be the critical-buzz heavy serious romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer” starring the extremely talented pair of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the thoroughly awesome Zooey Deschanel, which Box Office Mojo says will be opening in 27 theaters on Friday, 6/17. I missed it at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and I have the feeling I missed out on some good times.


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