Friday, July 17, 2009

It's good to be Harry.

If you've been wondering if Harry Potter can produce anymore magic with that wand of his, Warner Bros. can show you some very conclusive evidence that the answer is ye$ - with a capitol $!

Harry's latest book turned film is Hogwarts Year 6 - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which opened on Wednesday around the world and screened in midnight showings all over the U.S. on Wednesday morning. The results were magical.

During midnight screenings alone, Harry already began setting records with grosses that topped even The Dark Knight's midnight screenings a year ago. By the end of the day on Wednesday Harry had conjured $58.18 million domestic and an additional $45.85 million overseas becoming the most successful first day in the Potter series and the fourth highest single day gross in North American box-office history.

The potential for the completion of the series will be realized with the 2-film adaptation of the final book (Year 7) over the next two years (at least according to Warner Bros.'s advance release plans), and is leaving no doubt that the Harry Potter movies will become the most successful film franchise in cinema history. In marking that milestone, Harry Potter will expectedly pass the James Bond franchise well before the run of Half-Blood Prince trickles out and will then likely overtake George Lucas' Star Wars empire next year with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One. Of course, you haven't seen the last of 007 or R2-D2 and C-3PO but you do have to take in account that while Star Wars blasted onto screens for the first time in 1977 and James Bond made his debut in 1962 (Sean Connery in Dr. No), Harry only hit Hogwarts and discovered he was a wizard in 2001.

"And so Dorothy, what have we learned?" Though that's a question worthy of another wizard, the answers this time are obvious.

We learned that J.K. Rowling's extraordinary books have legions of loyal fans.

We learned that Warner Bros. is the most savvy studio in a decade to have seized on the potential of Rowling's characters for movies faster than any of the studios who should have known better. (How differently would Michael Eisner's Disney legacy be viewed if Harry's movies were on the vault shelf next to Snow White?)

We learned the merits of treating a film franchise with respect, from maintaining a relationship with its creator, to nurturing it's young cast, to filling that cast with seasoned pros and tons of off screen talent.

We learned that reading books (go figure) is still an activity treasured and beloved by millions, of all ages, who gladly let their hearts and imaginations be captured by endearing and enduring characters and settings.

We learned that quality in all things matters and we learned that the best movies are made by filmmakers who not only know their source material, but love it.

The three day weekend is just starting and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is projected to bring in 100 million more in the next 72 or so hours, and that's just on this continent. With worldwide audiences returning as much as 60% of a film's revenue, the numbers may stagger. The principals and logic of Harry's box-office wizardry though, should simply confirm. Good business and talented people reap solid results. Though that's not exactly Hollywood by the numbers, these are numbers even Hollywood can't and won't ignore. Congratulations Harry, you're a wizard.

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