Weekend box office: There’s no way other way to say it, Harry Potter is a lot more popular than Russell Crowe

So, folks, here’s your key to box office success: fund the kind of European-styled welfare state that would drive Tea Party activists into a state of complete hysterics, if they weren’t already there. With impoverished moms actually having a modest amount of free time to themselves because they don’t have to worry about their children starving or being unable to go the doctor and your society as a whole benefiting from improved physical and mental health, wait for one of those moms with a literary bent to come up with a once-in-a-century sensation of a book series. Hopefully, it will be aimed at a young audience with time to watch each movie several times. Then, film it — competently, will suffice, no particular need for brilliance — making sure, as Anthony D’Alessandro reminds us, to avoid the need for a momentum-killing reboot by recruiting strong and likable leads you can continue with for the entire length of the franchise. Repeat.

Daniel Radcliffe can probably afford better mirrors than this That’s pretty much the formula for the massive success of the Harry Potter film franchise. So, as stated Thursday eve, the question for the first weekend of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” was always whether it would have a great opening or the greatest opening of all time. Well, it did have the greatest opening of all time…for a Harry Potter film. To be specific, according to Box Office Mojo, it earned an estimated $125 million, still well shy of the current opening weekend record holder, “The Dark Knight,” which grossed over $158 million on its mega-huge opening weekend.

On the other hand, that is a series best, significantly well north of the $102 million and change earned by “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” five years back. Also, as the saying goes, $125 million here and $125 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. The emotionally rather dark-hued installment (I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read the book, and I can only imagine) also earned the highest per-screen average this week, a rather unusual achievement for a super-wide release like this, earning a whopping $30,332 average in over 4,100 theaters. That’s a nice infusion into our failing economy, as well, even if we have to share it with billionaire ex-welfare mom J.K. Rowling and a bunch of other Brits because of that whole welfare state thing I propagandized for up top. Well, don’t worry because “austerity” might mean that there won’t be any more new English Rowlings for a while, either. Still, she’s got another even bigger pay day ahead of her with the upcoming 3D series finale.

Meanwhile, last week’s trinity of top moneymakers held on decently with drops somewhere not too far above the 40% region. #2 “Megamind” amassed an estimate of $16.175 for its world domination war chest; runaway train thriller #3 “Unstoppable” was not stopped and earned an estimated $13.1 million; #4 “Due Date” avoided lateness penalties in its third weekend for a star-driven $9.15 million.

Meanwhile, the wide theatrical run for Russell Crowe‘s latest may not be all that much longer than, you guessed it, “The Next Three Days.” Paul Haggis’s underwhelmingly reviewed thriller costarring Elizabeth Banks debuted in the deadly #5 spot with only $6.75 million. The budget on the film, which could well be very modest if you subtract Crowe’s paycheck, is unknown at this point, but Nikki Finke is quick to remind that marketing costs for a film like this pretty much start at $30 million.

Will Russell Crowe and Elizabeth banks last for

  

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Warners gives “Potter” fans extras actually worth watching

Poring through bonus features to DVDs may sound like easy work, but it gets pretty tedious after a while. We get it, you’ve just made the greatest movie of all time. Now please get in line with everyone else, because so did they.

Props, then, to the people behind the “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” for coming up with a slew of extras that will be fun for the kids and give their parents something to chew on as well. Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and Alfie Enouch (Dean Thomas) host a series of clips where the child actors meet with various behind-the-scenes personnel, discussing editing, makeup, costumes, special effects, and even owl training. Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), meanwhile, plays a fun game called “What’s on Your Mind?” with the cast, asking questions about their favorite food, people and places. It’s completely fluffy and light, but fun.

There are several deleted scenes, including one involving clouds gathering over Hogwarts that should have made the final cut. On the self-promotion front, there is a featurette dedicated to the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The biggest surprise, though, is the 50-minute film (!) “J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life,” a rather sobering documentary about her upbringing and the parallels between her life and the Potter universe. Good stuff, Warners.

  

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Updates….

* A couple of addenda of yesterday’s DC demi-bombshell. First, Heidi MacDonald allows us to “Meet Diane Nelson.” The woman who’ll sooon be running DC spoke to Sharon Waxman at The Wrap and did joint interviews with soon to be former DC Comics president Paul Levitz for Comic Book Resources and Newsarama. Apparently part of the function is to reassure fans that the new DC will be “talent friendly” and that the highly regarded Levitz wasn’t too unhappy to be nudged aside after seven year’s in the prexy-seat.

So, what does “Kremlinologist” MacDonald make of the interviews:

…the emphasis on creators and their importance is heartening. Surely the person who negotiated the interests of J.K. Rowling understands the importance of the sole creator and inspiration, without which big corporations just turn out things like Loonatics. At the same time, the lack of mentions of the phrase “comic books” in most of the answers is troubling.

Of course, Nelson admits readily to not being “by nature” a comic book fan, and she will not be the publisher. Look for the selection of the person to fill that role to be receiving some serious geek attention in coming weeks.

* A fun piece of fall-out from Disney/Marvel merger is the talk of Pixar taking on the planned Ant Man movie, an even more fun thought given that the project when last heard of was resting in the capable and fanboy-approved hands of writer-director Edgar Wright of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Well, CHUD’s Devin Faraci managed to get a missive from Wright who confirmed his ongoing involvement, but not so much Pixar’s.

The news that Pixar is involved is not wholly accurate and a little premature to comment on. I love Pixar’s work more than anyone and indeed would love to collaborate with them.

I’m not sure though that they would want to do a ‘shrinking’ film as a Pixar animation – since Toy Story and A Bug’s Life already cover this territory to some extent…My spin on Ant Man is very different than a straight superhero origin – and very much live action.

Sounds fun, regardless.

ant-man-edgar-wright

  

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J.K. Rowling working on next project

Hey Harry Potter fans, need another J. K. Rowling fix? Then you’ll be thrilled to know that the author is working on her next project, which is apparently a crime novel. Finally, a break from tradition! The only question remaining then is will children be snapping up this next novel like all the adults who bought all the Harry potter books? Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if the kiddies were subjected to real gritty murder, sex, drugs, and mayhem from their fave author? It would be awesome.

  

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