‘Harry Potter' Franchise Shows No Sign Of Slowing

Even after a half-dozen films, Harry Potter continues to prove he's a sorcerer in the dark.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth movie installment of J.K. Rowling's book series, took in more than $158 million at the box office over its first five days, a sum that's a little lower than initial estimates but still a much bigger haul than its predecessor.

The last movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," grossed $139.7 million domestically in its first five days two years ago.

"It shows that the franchise is as hot as it's ever been," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com. "It's very rare to find a franchise that is as relevant and as popular in the sixth installment."

Both the fifth and sixth films opened in July and with shows that began shortly after midnight on a Wednesday. "Half-Blood Prince" conjured up 13 percent more cash and had 6 percent more tickets sold. Ticket prices have gone up 7 percent in the past two years.

The latest film is on its way to becoming the franchise's first $300 million domestic smash since the original movie, 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Distributor Warner Bros. originally planned to release "Half-Blood Prince" last November but bumped it to 2009 to take advantage of an open weekend in Hollywood's busy summer schedule. Pent-up demand — Potter fans this time had to wait the longest between installments — fed a flurry of tickets for the earliest showings.

Pandya said he wouldn't be surprised if "Half-Blood Prince" finishes near the $950 million mark worldwide and he thinks it could even break the $1 billion mark — something only four other films have accomplished. (The first "Potter" film fell a little short of the mark.)

Sacha Baron Cohen's mock documentary "Bruno" plummeted to fourth place after its No. 1 debut the previous weekend. The Universal Pictures comedy took in only $8.3 million, down a whopping 73 percent from its $30.6 million opening.

Fox Searchlight's romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, got off to a big start in limited release with $834,501 in 27 theaters. A hit with critics, "(500) Days of Summer" expands gradually into wide release over the next few weekends.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Hollywood.com:

1. "Harry Potter&the Half Blood Prince," Warner Bros., $77,835,727, 4,325 locations, $17,997 average, $158,022,354, one week.

2. "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," Fox, $17,561,406, 3,817 locations, $4,601 average, $151,865,987, three weeks.

3. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," Paramount, $13,691,487, 3,857 locations, $3,550 average, $363,808,123, four weeks.

4. "Bruno," Universal, $8,318,385, 2,759 locations, $3,015 average, $49,533,475, two weeks.

5. "The Proposal," Disney, $8,289,707, 3,043 locations, $2,724 average, $128,083,273, five weeks.

6. "The Hangover," Warner Bros., $8,177,272, 2,667 locations, $3,066 average, $235,744,423, seven weeks.

7. "Public Enemies," Universal, $7,748,325, 3,118 locations, $2,485 average, $79,639,205, three weeks.

8. "Up," Disney, $3,172,014, 1,706 locations, $1,859 average, $279,583,282, eight weeks.

9. "My Sister's Keeper," Warner Bros., $2,828,367, 1,967 locations, $1,438 average, $41,507,695, four weeks.

10. "I Love You Beth Cooper," Fox, $2,766,863, 1,872 locations, $1,478 average, $10,363,239, two weeks.

11. "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," Sony/Columbia, $889,259, 610 locations, $1,458 average, $62,900,310, six weeks.

12. "(500) Days of Summer," Fox Searchlight, $834,501, 27 locations, $30,907 average, $834,501, one week.

13. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," Fox, $759,571, 515 locations, $1,475 average, $171,820,365, nine weeks.

14. "The Hurt Locker," Summit, $740,224, 94 locations, $7,875 average, $2,148,619, four weeks.

15. "Star Trek," Paramount, $690,639, 505 locations, $1,368 average, $253,164,613, 11 weeks.

16. "Moon," Sony Pictures Classics, $525,740, 251 locations, $2,095 average, $2,654,338, six weeks.

17. "Away We Go," Focus, $496,917, 299 locations, $1,662 average, $8,283,525, seven weeks.

18. "Whatever Works," Sony Pictures Classics, $471,288, 228 locations, $2,067 average, $3,890,755, five weeks.

19. "Terminator Salvation," Warner Bros., $420,964, 195 locations, $2,159 average, $123,769,662, nine weeks.

20. "Angels&Demons," Sony/Columbia, $413,476, 396 locations, $1,044 average, $132,460,823, 10 weeks.

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