Top 10 Film Industry Stories of 2011: #1

Harry Potter Finally Graduates (More or Less)

By Kim Hollis

December 30, 2011

J.K. Rowling's third basement.

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From the fourth film on, things got bigger and better. Goblet of Fire, arguably the most intriguing and action packed of the films until the finale, returned to the November opening date and started with $102.7 million on its way to $290 million domestically and $896 million worldwide. Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince returned to summer with July release dates, translating to respective opening weekends of $77.1 million and $77.8 million. Sure, these weekend totals were lower than others, but the final results were solid. Order of the Phoenix earned $290 million in North America and $940 million worldwide, while Half-Blood Prince tallied $302 million domestically and $934 million worldwide.

For the final book, the studio made the decision to expand the story to two films, in part because the story in that seventh novel was so sweeping that more time was needed for the adaptation, but surely also because they wanted to get an extra billion plus out of the series. The ploy undoubtedly worked. Deathly Hallows Part I took over the November 19, 2010 weekend with $125 million. Its domestic take was $296 million, while the worldwide total was $$956 million.

For the series finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, Warner Bros. debuted the movie on July 15, 2011. The franchise came full circle, as the eighth film set the record for largest opening weekend ever with a $169.2 million total. It also became the highest grossing of all the films, both domestically and worldwide. The North American total was $381 million, and the worldwide tally was a gaudy $1.3 billion. It’s the 13th highest grosser in North American history, but worldwide it sits at #3, behind only Avatar and Titanic. It has the highest single day of box office with the $91.1 million it earned on Friday, July 15th (beating the second place film by almost a full $20 million). It ties The Dark Knight and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as fastest movie to reach $200 million, taking only five days to accomplish this feat.


To put it all in perspective, the franchise total for Harry Potter is $7.7 billion. The average worldwide gross per film is $963 million – just short of a billion apiece. Star Wars has earned 4.3 billion (excluding The Clone Wars, which does add another $68 million, but skews the average per film so I’m tossing it out). The average per Star Wars flick is $723.9 million.

For those who want to argue that ticket inflation should render those numbers irrelevant (I would pose that the first three Star Wars films had an easier time capturing dollars in a period when entertainment options were far less prevalent), let’s compare to the Twilight franchise. The worldwide average for that series is $493.3 million – Potter almost doubles that amount.

For those who just don’t want to live in a world without Harry, the fun hasn’t really ended. At Universal Studios in Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a huge hit, drawing so many crowds that at times the park has to stop allowing additional people in. As the final movie was released, JK Rowling was announcing registration for the Pottermore website, where users can have an interactive experience with the books, from visiting Diagon Alley to making potions to casting spells. Harry Potter Legos are a huge seller for the Christmas season, along with video games, board games and action figures. Harry Potter is a cultural touchstone, and although the movies may have had their final day in theaters, the boy wizard will remain part of our lives for a long time to come.

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