By Reagen Sulewski
July 24, 2011
The surprise second-place (in that it wasn't first) finisher was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, which fell like a horror movie, losing 71.6% of its opening weekend business to end up with just $48.1 million in its second weekend. It's the harshest judgment in the history of the franchise, at least in terms of second-weekend grosses. To put this in perspective, this is lower than the amount that Part I earned in its second weekend, that after a $45 million smaller start.
After claiming every meaningful opening weekend record in its debut, there was some thought that the game had changed, with new audiences opened up to the film for its finale. In the end, they've been more or less proven not to be more numerous, simply more fervent.
It would also be a mistake of epic proportions to take this as a disaster for the film – it's already passed two of the films in the series in US gross in just ten days and still seems on pace to become the first in the series to crack the $1 billion mark internationally. It's just that hopes of a larger breakthrough seem to be dashed at this point.
The four previous Potter films have all earned somewhere between $75 and 90 million from their second weekends on, and given Part II's similar second weekend to Part I, that metric seems likely to hold here. With $274 million already in the bank, that gives us a $350 to 365 million range for its final domestic total, which would put it well above the pack in comparison to other Potter films – Philospher/Sorcerer's Stone's $317 million shouldn't be any kind of barrier here.
Apparently no matter who you put in a romantic-comedy about casual sex, it's going to make exactly the same on opening weekend. Friends With Benefits nearly duplicated No Strings Attached's $19.7 million opening weekend with $18.5 million of its own, leaving Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher to have the (slight) bragging rights for now.
With a relative dearth of romantic comedies to compare it against of late other than its look-alike, it's difficult to determine just how well this compares within the genre. But against what I'm assuming is a tiny budget (relatively speaking), there's little to count against it as at least a moderate success and a potential breakthough lead role for both Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. With solid but unspectacular reviews and word-of-mouth, I'd look to No Strings Attached's $70 million finish as a target for the slightly slower starting Friends With Benefits.
Fourth place belongs to the suddenly stronger-looking Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which added $12 million to its total this weekend, pushing its domestic gross up to $325.8 million. After Potter's $170 million opening weekend, many thought Transformers was toast as a potential summer season winner, but we're at least back into the horse race. The estimate seems a shade generous based on its second and third weekends, but falls in line with past Sunday takes so it may hold at that figure. In any case, its probable $350 to $360 million finish should be viewed as a potential champ for the summer at this point.